RHINELANDER - Oconto Falls seemingly couldn't miss in the first half, and the Panthers outpaced the Rhinelander High School girls basketball team 63-40 on Monday night in Rhinelander.
"We switched up three different defenses at them and they continued to score. We started out in a zone, we went back to man, and there wasn't really anything we could do to stop them. They were just on fire. Hats off to them," said Hodags assistant coach John Wright.
Wright stepped in to coach RHS, who was without head coach Mark Jacobson due to a bad stomach flu.
The Panthers nailed seven three-pointers on their way to a 44-17 lead at the break. Bay Conference leading scorer McKenna Larsen had 15 first-half points for Oconto Falls.
RHS outscored the visitors in the second 16 minutes, but it wasn't enough as the Hodags fell to 3-17 on the year. Oconto Falls improved to 16-5.
No player had more than seven points for the Hodags, who were led by Sydnei Smith in scoring. Four players had six points in a balanced attack.
"I'd like to see us with that balance. I think that's the makeup we have right now. We've been a heavily guard-dominated scoring team up until this point, but we have some potential to score some points in the paint," Wright said.
Hodag forwards Brianna Gilbert, Emily Fortier, and Riley Aschenbrenner combined for 16 points, nearly all of them in the post.
RHS sophomore Kylie Hunter continued her gradual recovery from a meniscus injury, chipping in six off the bench.
The loss breaks a streak of three consecutive good outings for RHS. They had beaten Lakeland and Tomahawk last week before hanging tough with conference leader Northland Pines on Friday.
RHS has one more game, home against Wausau East on Thursday, before entering postseason action.
"I think we match up well against East. I would like to continue to see our bigs score some more points," Wright said.
After that matchup, the Hodags will ready themselves for WIAA playoff play. RHS drew the lowest seed in their Division 2 half-sectional, entering as #10. They will travel to Minocqua next Tuesday to play #7 Lakeland in the first round. The winner of that game will hit the road to face #2 Medford in the Regional Semifinals.
Oconto Falls vs. Rhinelander
Monday, Feb. 19
Oconto Falls 22 22 12 7 – 63
Rhinelander 7 10 7 16 – 40
Oconto Falls (63): McKenna Larsen 17, Jennifer Spang 11, Erin Gilligan 8, Elizabeth Manns 7, Labecca Jones 7, Carly Lemke 6, Elizabeth Watzka 5, Annestashia Rabe 1, Bailey Wolf 1.
Rhinelander (40): Sydnei Smith 7, Brianna Gilbert 6, Kylie Hunter 6, Emily Fortier 6, Mara Meyer 6, Riley Aschenbrenner 4, Molly Williging 3, Brianna Bozek 2.
Three-pointers: OC 10 (Larsen 3, Gillian 2, Jones 2, Watzka, Manns, Spang), R 3 (Meyer 2, Hunter).