Truckers lose chance of comeback with late-game fouls

Clintonville has 3 double-digit scorers
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Leader photo by Jacy Zollar Clintonville High School junior Samuel Wittman looks to pass during Friday’s loss at Oconto Falls on Friday. Wittman led the Truckers with 14 points.

Down three points with under a minute to play, Clintonville gave Oconto Falls three opportunities at the free-throw line to create a two-bucket game and prevent a chance at coming back in a 56-52 loss on Friday at Oconto Falls.

The teams battled back-and-forth to start the first half, but the Truckers broke out to a 23-15 lead after a 3-pointer by Aiden Polzin and layup by Kyle Finger.

Oconto Falls’ Josiah Schoen hit three consecutive 3-pointers to give the Panthers a one-point edge, but another layup by Finger gave the Truckers a 25-24 lead with 40 seconds left in the half.

Mason Sefcik secured a steal and layup at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 26-25 half-time lead.

Sean Finger opened the second half with layup, but the Panthers got hot and broke away to a 10-point lead with under five minutes to play. The Truckers went on a 11-2 run to level the score 53-50, but three fouls in the final 23 seconds allowed the Panthers to secure the victory.

“We just didn’t execute the little things tonight,” Clintonville head coach Shawn Howe said. “The steal and layup to give (Oconto Falls) the lead going into half was a huge momentum changer for the second half, and the fouls at the end obviously killed us.”

“Our kids have that mentality that they just don’t give up, no matter how much we’re down,” Oconto Falls head coach Kirk Hirst said. “When (Clintonville) was up in the first half, my guys didn’t freak out or let it get to them, they let it fuel them instead. So we just played harder on defense, found some lanes on offense and leveled the score.

“We’ve fought back from huge deficits so many times this season, so they knew they could do it tonight when we were down in the first half.”

The Truckers have also had a season of back-and-forth matchups.

“We’ve been battling all season,” Howe said. “We’ve had a lot of really close games with a lot of lead changes, so these kids have been in this situation before. So I would have liked to see them clean up at the end instead of scrambling there in the last minute, because this isn’t new to them.”

Tied in the North Eastern Conference before the match, the loss pushes Clintonville to 1-8 in the NEC (3-10 overall), while the Panthers move up to 2-7 (3-9 overall).

“We just really need to clean up the little mistakes,” Howe said. “If we can start doing that, I think we’ll have a good chance in our upcoming games, otherwise it’s going to be a long season for us. These kinds of losses sting for the kids, so I’m hopeful that they’ll learn from this.”

Sam Wittman led the Truckers with 14 points, followed by Sean Finger with 11 and Kyle Finger with 10. Josiah Schoen secured five 3-pointers to lead the Panthers with 20 points.

Oconto Falls (56)

Josiah Schoen 3-4 20; Dakota Carriveau 3-6 16; Mitchell Manns 2-2 7; Mason Sefcik 2-3 6; Dylan Nelson 0-3 3; Connor Peetz 0-0 2; Zachary Parsons 0-0 2.

Clintonville (52)

Sam Wittman 1-2 14; Sean Finger 4-4 11; Kyle Finger 0-0 10; Presley Rosenow 0-2 7; Aiden Polzin 0-0 6; Matthew Morse 0-0 4.

Oconto Falls 26 30 — 56

Clintonville 25 27 — 52