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Rhinelander, Elcho pick up victories to advance in playoffsSubmitted: 02/21/2017

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NORTHWOODS - Rhinelander defeated Antigo to advance in the Division Two playoffs.

Meanwhile Elcho continued it's impressive run with a win to advance in the Division Five playoffs.

Check out the highlights plus some area scores!



Story By: Mark Spillane

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Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com

 LOCAL SPORTS

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EAGLE RIVER - With Northland Pines' win over Clintonville on Tuesday night, Lexi Smith's incredible high school basketball career will continue for at least one more game.

That means at least one more practice, where you can always find her moving at full speed, and pushing her teammates along the way.

"I think it's the most fun part about practice. I love playing defense against her, I love bumping up against her," said Northland Pines junior Cassie Gauthier.

Such determination has been a big part of her athletic success, but it's the huge amount of success that's truly impressive.

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RHINELANDER - The Rhinelander community lost a vital part of the Hodag family this week. 

54-year-old Mark Apfel passed away on Sunday, February 12th.

"He made everyone feel special," said former player, Zach Ready.

He was a long time football, basketball and baseball coach for hundreds of young men at Rhinelander High School.

"He was one of my favorite coaches," said Ready.

The impact of Apfel was felt even off the field.

"He taught me how to treat people. And how to appreciate everything that someone brings to the table. Not everyone can give you everything, but there's always something in someone," said Ready.

Ready is now a football coach for the Hodags. His time with Apfel helped shape him into the coach that he is today.

"He was one of the few coaches that would tell you they loved you and that he would do anything for you," said Ready.

One of Apfel's best friends and coaching partners, Mike Prom, also reflected on who Mark was as a coach.

"If they were in need financially or if they were in need of clothing, or if they needed encouragement, he was there," said Prom.

Prom has used this time to try and sum up Apfel's message to not only his players, but also the Rhinelander community.

"Be committed to people. Love people. Care for people. Get involved in their lives in whatever way you can," said Prom.

Apfel was always trying to make everyone around him better. Prom knows his friend would want his legacy to be heard.

"When you leave this earth, you're leaving a legacy. What kind of legacy are you leaving?" said Prom.

There will be a scholarship offered in Mark's name for Rhinelander senior student athletes. For more information, contact the high school guidance counselor.

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MADISON - Friday night, Lakeland Union and Rhinelander went down to Madison for the boys Division 2 state swim meet. 

Lakeland Union's Jack Garcia had the best finish of the night for the Northwoods schools. He finished third in the 500 freestyle. Not only did he podium, he also beat his personal record by seven seconds.

"I talked to the guy beforehand that was right next to me and he said 'oh, I want to go a 4:40, a 4:45' and I just thought 'okay, I'll go with you'," said Garcia.

Yes, Garcia was happy with his finish. But he's also only a junior, so he'll be back for more next year.

"It felt really good to swim that well for the end of the year, and I still have another year to improve it even better," said Garcia.

Rhinelander's Nolan Francis was also happy with his times. His best finish was sixth in the 100 yard butterfly with a time of 53.84 seconds.

"It was really a good race. I felt good going in and I was warming up behind the blocks and I just got out there and raced the guy next to me and the race went smooth," said Francis.

Monona Grove dominated the meet. But having such a big school in the same pool didn't intimate the Northwoods swimmers. They knew to simply focus on their own times.

"Not that we don't set our sights for them, it's just they're on a whole different level right now," said Francis.
It also helped that the two smaller schools were there to cheer each other on.

"They always mess around with us and we hang out with them. You get to cheer everyone on, so it's a heck of a lot more fun having them here," said Garcia.

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MOSINEE - Less than 24 hours after Medford boys basketball won its first ever Great Northern Conference Championship the Raiders girls gymnastics team matched that accomplishment.

Medford finished off an undefeated conference season by scoring 116 points Saturday and edging out the Rhinelander Hodags in the GNC small-school division.

Some of the Raiders said the win was a result of a new positive approach this year.

"A lot of the girls had different attitudes this year, very positive compared to when I started gymnastics. It was just awesome to see that," said senior Megan Rudolph.

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ELCHO - The last time the Elcho Hornets won the Northern Lakes Conference, Michael Jordan was still in college and Lynn Dickey was the Packers quarterback.

It was 1984.

But that three decade title drought officially came to an end on Friday.

"Our 8th grade year we went undefeated, so we were kind of like 'yeah when we are seniors, this is the team that is going to make it on the wall again,'" said senior Brenna Denamur.

The Hornets backed up those words by going 12-1this year and rolling to the championship.

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NORTHWOODS - Medford secured the boys Great Northern Conference title, as Elcho locked up the girls Northern Lakes crown.

Plus Rhinelander topped Antigo and Laona-Wabeno clinched the Northern Lakes with a win over Phelps.

Check out all that and more on Friday Night Blitz!

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EAGLE RIVER - Check out highlights from both the boys and girls Northland Pines hockey team.

The girls team took down the Lakeland/Tomahawk co-op, 4-0.

The boys team defeated the Mosinee Indians, 5-3.

Both teams advance on to the next round of the regional tournament.

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 REGIONAL SPORTS

MADISON - MADISON, Wis. (AP) " Nigel Hayes scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, Ethan Happ had 20 points and No. 11 Wisconsin beat No. 23 Maryland 71-60 in a choppy, foul-filled game on Sunday.

The Badgers (22-5, 11-3) overcame 27 points from Terrapins guard Melo Trimble to snap a two-game losing streak and stay in a tie atop the Big Ten with Purdue.

Bronson Koenig scored all nine of his points in the second half, giving the Badgers a lift with his jump shot after the senior missed a game with a left calf injury. Wisconsin shot 51 percent in the second half.

Wisconsin pulled away slowly, turning a six-point halftime deficit into a 12-point edge with 3 minutes to go in a game that lacked flow because of frequent whistles.

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MADISON - Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points, and defensive-minded Northwestern beat No. 7 Wisconsin 66-59 on Sunday, securing an important win for the school's bid to make its first-ever NCAA Tournament.

Dererk Pardon added 11 for the Wildcats (19-6, 8-4), who confounded the Big Ten-leading Badgers by doubling dominant big man Ethan Happ.

Nigel Hayes scored nine of his 13 points in the second half for the Badgers (21-4, 10-2), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped.

The Badgers didn't let up despite falling behind by 10 with 1 minute left, closing to 60-55 with less than 15 seconds after Zak Showalter hit two foul shots.

But McIntosh followed with two free throws with 42 seconds left, and Wisconsin ran out of time.


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ATLANTA, GA - The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch and run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

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GREEN BAY - Receiver Jordy Nelson will miss the Green Bay Packers' divisional round playoff game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys because of injured ribs.

Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday that Nelson would not be medically cleared to take part in the team's final practice on Saturday, and that the medical staff determined that Nelson would not be ready for the game.

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IOWA CITY, IA - With a possible trip to the Big Ten championship game at stake, Nebraska fell flat.

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THREE LAKES - Wisconsin Badger basketball fans know their team plays old-school, fundamental hoops.

It's something of a lost art, but high school coaches hope to bring it back.

So Monday former Badger basketball standout Brian Butch offered to help, teaching kids in Three Lakes the skills he focused on as a kid.

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GREEN BAY - The Packers completed their second week of organized team activities this past week.

Green Bay is using some new drills too.

That's because the wide receiving squad has a new coach.

Luke Getsy is using bricks, Nerf balls, and juggling as tools for drills.

The Packers wide receiving core struggled last year.

Randall Cobb thinks the new mentality will help.

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