RHINELANDER - Shane White won the matchup of star big men, and the Rhinelander High School boys basketball team overcame a halftime deficit to open their WIAA Division 2 postseason with a 46-35 home win over Merrill on Friday.
White poured in 20 points in his matchup with 6-8 Bluejays forward David Jesperson. Jesperson had finished the regular season leading the Wisconsin Valley Conference in scoring and rebounding, but put in just 14 points Friday night.
"(White has) done a great job of playing a role this year, even though he has that star caliber, he keeps it within the team. He wanted to show people, when it comes to a player, I can be just the same as these other guys," Hodags coach Derek Lemmens said after the game.
Jesperson was held to just four points in the second half. As a team, RHS held Merrill to only 14 points after the break.
"We did a better job of containing. When we get over-aggressive and create holes for them, that's when they can get in there. They don't have a ton of skill players, I didn't feel. What we had to do was keep in front and try to limit Jesperson," Lemmens said.
Colton Volkmann scored 12 for the Hodags on four timely three-pointers.
"We said in the coaches' office, Colton Volkmann comes alive in the playoffs. We were looking for it, and every time he hit was right when we just needed one to get some separation," said Lemmens.
Rhinelander got off to a hot start, jumping to a nine-point lead after one quarter. It was an opening period to be expected from the top-seeded Hodags against #4 Merrill. "We came out the way we wanted to. We did the things we had up on the board – we took the game plan and we got it done," Lemmens said.
But the Bluejays surprised RHS to rally back for a halftime lead at 21-20, with Jesperson finding his second-quarter stroke.
"We got away from what we had drawn up and what we wanted to do. We just let our emotions get the best of us," Lemmens said.
Rhinelander employed a 2-3 zone defense in the half-court for nearly the entire game. It was at peak effectiveness after halftime, holding Merrill to just six in the third and eight in the fourth.
The Hodags step right back onto the court at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium for Saturday's Regional Final. They will face #3 Medford, who won 58-56 at second-seeded Lakeland Friday night. Medford handed RHS one of their only two losses on the year, a 56-32 thumping on Jan. 25.
"Medford has to do more traveling, so if anything, we have the advantage," Lemmens said of Saturday's game.
Reports from Minocqua indicated Medford star guard John Keefe injured his leg on the final play of Friday's game. His status for the Regional Final is undetermined.
The Hodags and Raiders will tip at 5:30pm Saturday. Join Ben Meyer and Jeremy Mayo for the play-by-play action on HodagSports.com starting at 5:00 pm.
Merrill vs. Rhinelander Friday, Feb. 22 Merrill 6 15 6 8 – 35 Rhinelander 15 5 10 16 – 46 Merrill (35): David Jesperson 14, Jake Anderson 8, Paul Theorin 6, Andrew Seaman 2, Alex Zettler 2, Chaz Mootz 2, Nick Peterson 1. Rhinelander (46): Shane White 20, Colton Volkmann 12, Brad Kenote 5, Brett Mathews 4, Mitch Reinthaler 4, Austin Bowman 1.
HARSHAW - Oneida County sheriff's deputies found three runaway sisters, ages 14, 14, and 12, in the woods in Harshaw just after 1 p.m. on Monday.
The sisters had been reported missing by their parents Monday morning. The parents had gone to wake the girls up for school, but instead found a note saying they had gone on an "adventure."
The missing girls triggered a search from the Oneida County Sheriff's Office Special Response Unit, Newbold Fire Department Search and Rescue, Minocqua Fire Department, Lake Tomahawk Fire Department, and Little Rice Fire Department.
RHINELANDER - The Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission will get its long-awaited federal funding installment by October 4.
The timing means no Northwoods Transit Connections drivers will have to voluntarily furlough their pay, but the requirement of 24-hour advance notice for rides will stay in place.
Transit Commission Chair Erv Teichmiller learned the news over the weekend.
The commission is waiting on an expected payment of $300,000 from the federal government. In 2016, that money came in early September. As of last Friday, the commission wasn't expecting the payment until as late as November.
RHINELANDER - A large open lot on Rhinelander's east side could soon fill in with a chain restaurant.
Cory Moritz-Hoffmann and her husband hope to build a Pizza Ranch next to Kwik Trip on Eisenhower Parkway. The pair of former Pine Lake firefighters got the idea about six years ago when they first went to a Pizza Ranch in Iowa.
They considered pursing a franchise then, but it was more than they could afford at the time. About two years ago, the Hoffmanns contacted an investor and saw an opportunity to turn their dream into a reality.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander factory that makes smoke flavoring caught fire early Monday morning. Â Shortly before 6:00 a.m.,Â Rhinelander, Crescent and Newbold Fire Departments responded to a fire at Red Arrow Products on Rhinelander's west side.
An employee says there were about eight workers inside at the time.
No one was injured.
"Flames were coming out of a conveyor area as high as the roof. We made an interior attack and knocked that flame down. Came in from the other side of the partition wall, then made another interior attack and knocked that down," says Chief Terry Williams.
As of 7:30 a.m. Monday morning, firefighters were still working to make sure the flames were out.
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