“I think we proved that we can play with any team in the state. But don’t be satisfied with just playing with teams and staying close. We need to win some games.”
Those were the words of Wrightstown Tiger Head Coach Cory Haese to his charges after their 56-52 loss to the #4 ranked (wissports.net) Freedom Irish at the Shawano Sun Drop Classic in the Kress Events Center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The Tigers got off to a rocky start, unable to doing anything offensively and seemingly unable to stop the Irish on the defensive end. Freedom, led by Collin Hofacker’s six points, jumped out to 18-5 lead after one quarter and seemed ready to run away from the Tigers.
“They are good. They are a little better athletically at every position and we had to match up with that. We didn’t match up very well physically to start the game,” Haese said. “They had a lot more energy and you could tell by the score. But I thought as we played with them a little bit, we gathered our composure and got stronger. “
The Tigers refused to simply lie down, and showed the kind of tenacity and grit that they will need to be successful in the very tough Olympian Conference. One particular play gives an example of the kind of play Haese is looking for from the Tigers. Alan Barta, trying to make a steal in the fourth quarter, dove and slid across the floor and got the steal. It got both the team and the very large contingent of Tiger fans that made the trip to Green Bay hyped up.
“I am obviously proud of our effort and the way we didn’t give up. We are just not making sound basketball plays yet,” Haese said. “We are missing some cutters, and our passing and catching has been pretty poor. It seems like every game we are playing, it’s a possession here or a possession there that is the difference. It was the same thing tonight. Right down to possessions. We have to have more sound possessions offensively.”
Wrightstown ratcheted up the defensive intensity starting in the second quarter and held the Irish to just nine field goals the rest of the game. They had six in the first quarter. The Tigers, who were down as many as 16 in the contest, took a brief one point lead with 1:45 in the third quarter. Take away the horrendous first quarter, and the Tigers outscored the Irish 47-38 the rest of the game.
“They were defending the lane well, and we were unable to get the inside touches that we wanted,” said Freedom head coach John Van Rossum. “And then, uncharacteristically for us, we showed a lot of patience because of their defense and ran a few minutes, but turned it over.”
The difference for the Irish was at the free throw line. Freedom attempted over twice as many free throws (33-15) as the Tigers did. As a matter of fact, the Irish MADE more free throws (25) than the Tigers even attempted (15).
“We foul too much; plain and simple,” Haese said with a chuckle. “It is the fine line between getting the guys to play their tails off and play really hard, but don’t foul. We play really hard, we get after it and then it is a football game out there. I tell the guys all the time, it is hard to defend a free throw.”
Offensively, the Tigers (4-4 overall) got a good game from Zac Haese. The 6’3 junior poured in 18 points, with 15 of those coming in the second half. Austin DeCleene chipped in 12. Logan Maulick scored 17 for the Irish (8-0 overall).
The Tigers get back to their Olympian Conference schedule on January 5th, taking on Manitowoc Roncalli at the Tiger Dome. Game time is 7:30. Both teams currently sit at 3-1 in the conference, a game behind league-leading Valders and Brillion, who are both 4-0 in the conference.