Otradovec scores 29 points, leads Wildcats past Bowler

3 Gresham players shoot over 20 points in border rivalry
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Leader photo by Jacy Zollar Gresham Community School freshman Raven Bennett makes a 3-point attempt during the second half of Friday’s 91-56 win over Bowler.

Gresham Community School had three shooters score over 20 points to lead the Wildcats past Bowler in a lopsided 91-56 victory on Friday at Gresham.

The Wildcats’ leading duo, Todd Otradovec and Drew Haffner, didn’t disappoint during the Central Wisconsin Conference-North rivalry matchup. Otradovec tallied a game-high 29 points and Haffner added 23 to account for over half of Gresham’s scoring.

“They’re exceptional players offensively, and experienced, so they know what they’re doing on the court,” head coach Jeff Zobeck said. “This is Drew’s fourth year starting on varsity and Todd’s third year starting, so they’ve seen a lot. As seniors, I’m hoping that they’ll really drive their knowledge into the freshmen and younger guys because I’d like to see that knowledge passed down.”

Junior Justice Paiser, who rounded out the Wildcats’ leading scorers at 22 points, was the star player for Zobeck.

“Justice was just phenomenal right from the get-go on the offensive glass,” he said, “and that definitely gave us a boost.

“We made some adjustments offensively that seems like it’s fitting our personnel better and putting guys in better situations, like keeping Justice closer to the basket. Originally he was more out on the perimeter, but he clearly showed that his positioning tonight suits him better and he was just a force out there. I can’t say enough about him tonight.”

Bowler also had double-digit contributors. Ezra Spencer led the Panthers with 19 points and Nathan Montez followed with 16.

“Offensively, I thought we did well,” Bowler head coach Adam Spencer said. “Ezra (Spencer) and Nathan (Montez) are the leaders of this team and I’m trying to get them to set the tone for everybody else but it’s tough with only one senior and a small team.”

Gresham and Bowler both had the same takeaways after the game: strong offense, struggling defense.

“Defensively, we just weren’t there tonight,” Spencer said. “In all aspects, we just didn’t give it effort on defense.”

“Our biggest weakness that I talked about at halftime was that we can’t keep guys in front of us,” Zobeck said. “We’re capable of it, but it’s just not something that’s natural for us, so we need to continue to work hard at that. We had opportunities tonight to work on that, but Bowler had a couple good guys that could get past us, so we’re still a work in progress there.”

For the Panthers, Spencer points to a lack of experience as a main contributor to their 0-6 season.

“I think the biggest thing with us is that we don’t start basketball until seventh grade and these schools that we’re playing against start in third or fourth grade and they establish pretty good programs,” he said. “So that’s something I’m trying to start with them because it’s tough to even get the fundamentals with varsity players when they just don’t have that experience.

“Where Gresham’s at right now is where we want to be at the end of the year. We’re getting there, these kids are getting better and enjoying it, so we’re just going to keep working at it and really focus on defense.”

Gresham’s (4-3, 3-0 CWC) win keeps them in the race for the top conference spot, which is currently split between the Wildcats, Northland Lutheran and Manawa. The Wildcats travel to Manawa on Tuesday, and Zobeck sees the matchup as a key test for the team.

“They’re tough. They’re blowing people out,” he said. “We are too, but we’ve also played a few weaker teams. So that’s a huge game for us for our conference if we want to take control. Getting a win on the road at Manawa would give us a huge leg up.”