- Colton Volkmann splashed four three pointers in the game's first nine minutes, and the Rhinelander boys basketball team cruised to a 57-40 home win in their playoff opener over Mosinee Friday night.
Volkmann hit two first-quarter threes, and then two more in for the first minute of the second quarter as the Hodags sprinted out to a 13-point halftime lead.
"He provided us energy to get rolling. He hit the big shots when our offense was kind of sputtering," RHS head coach Derek Lemmens said.
The Hodags, seeded #1 in their quarter-sectional, advance to face #3 seed Wausau East Saturday in a Regional Final. The Lumberjacks downed #2 Merrill 45-44 on a buzzer-beating three-point shot Friday night.
Rhinelander picked up their third win over the Indians this season. The Hodags had prevailed twice in the regular season on their way to a 12-0 conference record and a second-straight Great Northern Conference title.
Loud Hodag fans packed the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium, filling three sets of extra bleachers brought in for the game.
"We have amazing fans in Rhinelander. We always have. We had it when I played. That makes a huge difference," Lemmens said.
Kent Mathews and Mitch Reinthaler each chipped in a dozen points for the Hodags, who led by as many as 20 in the second half.
Reinthaler had a slow scoring start, and finished well under his season average of nearly 19 points per game. But Lemmens was fine with his performance.
"As much as we appreciate Mitch's scoring, if we don't need it, we'll take it. He's not looking for his points. He's going to let the game come to him," he said.
The Hodags mixed a 1-3-1 trapping defense with a 2-3 zone. Both proved effective in keeping the Indians from penetration and post touches.
"We wanted to make them shoot from the outside. We didn't want their bigs to get easy touches," Lemmens said.
Offensively, Rhinelander worked their way into a smooth pattern for much of the night.
"When you saw us getting those curl cuts and back cuts and open post touches, we were spaced. There were times where we cluttered ourselves or didn't have a lot of purpose. But overall, I was pretty pleased with it," Lemmens said.
Mosinee hung with the Hodags early on, trailing just 10-9 after the first quarter. Max Soderberg scored the first eight Indian points. But a 19-point barrage in the second period, capped by a Mathews spinning bank shot as time expired, stretched the lead to 13 at the half.
After a back-and-forth third quarter, Reinthaler's three-point play gave a Hodags a 20-point edge halfway through the fourth.
The comfortable lead allowed Lemmens to get players like Mason Shallow, Isaac Wendt, Cole Oettinger, Bryce Young, and Eric Tracy playing time near the end of regulation.
Now, the Hodags will have fewer than 24 hours off before they host Wausau East.
Earlier this month, Rhinelander defeated the Lumberjacks 64-46. But East decided to rest a pair of standout juniors in that game.
"It's going to be a different East team. They had two guys that didn't play. We have to watch the three-point shooting along with easy touches inside. It's going to be tough to do. That's a lot of the court that we have to guard," Lemmens said.
Saturday's Regional Final will tip at 4 p.m. Listen to the game on HodagSports.com with Ben Meyer on the call.
Written By: Ben Meyer