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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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ANTIGO - Antigo hockey players know how to win.

They've done so 79 times in the last four years to be exact.

Those victories have earned them four straight conference crowns and three straight sectional finals.

"Being so successful, it's something special," said junior defenseman Matt Winter

"It's so special to look up at the banners in a couple years and know we made our mark every year in one way or another," said senior forward Tyler Husnick. "And it's just gotten a little more special for us as we've gotten older." 

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EAGLE RIVER - Dozens of teams with hundreds of players converged on Dollar Lake over the weekend for the USA Pond Hockey National Championships.

The small lake in Eagle River hosted 24 mini hockey rinks from Friday through Sunday.

The tournament wrapped up Sunday and some players finally skated away as champions.

"We are thrilled, we are thrilled it was a lot of hard work, we had to tweak our team a little bit, and it's indescribable. It took so much hard work and comradery and this is amazing," said Chicago native, Charmia Zigmond.

Zigmond's team won the women's 21 and over bronze championship after losing in the final game each of the last two seasons.

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Regional wrestling resultsSubmitted: 02/12/2017

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NORTHWOODS - High school post season makes its way to the Northwoods. Wrestling regionals took place around the area on Saturday.

Antigo hosted a D2 regional with Lakeland, Mosinee, Tomahawk, Nekoosa/Assumption and Waupaca.

The Northwoods teams, Antigo, Lakeland, Tomahawk and Mosinee took home 20 1st or 2nd place finishes between the 14 different weight classes.

There was another regional meet at Merrill, which was D1.

Alec Kurtz, Alec Bess, and Jacob DeMeyer were some of Rhinelander's 1st place finishers.

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