CHETEK — It started innocently enough with a familiar sight — a basket from Hayden Baughman.
Then Charlie Bleskachek jumped in on the action. And soon after it was Joey Huffcutt and Cory Hoglund joining in with buckets.
Before many had fully settled into their seats, the McDonell boys basketball team raced out to a 27-0 lead en route to a 78-51 triumph over Rib Lake on Thursday evening in a Division 5 sectional semifinal matchup.
The Macks (16-10) will play for their third consecutive trip to state on Saturday in Spooner against South Shore.
Baughman scored a game-high 24 points and Bleskachek added 19 for a Macks squad that kept rolling from a come-from-behind victory over Owen-Withee last Saturday in the regional finals.
The Macks scored the first 27 points of Thursday’s contest with a mix of inside and outside baskets, but coach Archie Sherbinow said it was their effort on the defensive end that drove the early surge as the Macks held Rib Lake (17-8) without a point for more than eight minutes.
“We definitely took the floor focused on the defensive end,” Sherbinow said. “I liked that the stuff we’ve been working on, we put it on the floor tonight and that’s good that they believed in it, wanted to do it in this type of game. I’m pleased that we took the floor with the focus and intensity we had and we held a pretty good scoring team (down) and made it a struggle for them to get baskets. I’m proud of the way we played defense.”
“We came out with fire on defense, we just wanted to get stops and that’s what we did,” Baughman said. “Defense fueled our offense and shots fell. We were focused and everything just went our way.”
McDonell hit six 3-pointers in the first half, including three in a two-minute stretch to extend the lead from 16-0 to 25-0.
After halftime the Macks held the sizable advantage, only allowing the Redmen to score back-to-back baskets once as Rib Lake looked to mount a rally.
JD Bohaty and Eion Kressin each added nine points for the victorious Macks.
“When every guy hits shots it’s hard to guard one guy. Everything is coming together and we just played well the whole game,” Bleskachek said.
Nick Gerstberger had a team-high 10 points for Rib Lake.
Thursday’s meeting marked the fourth year in a row the Macks and Redmen matched up in the playoffs. McDonell has now won all four of those meetings, three coming in the sectional semifinal round.
McDonell now turns its attention to the Cardinals (23-3), who defeated Drummond 56-44 on Thursday at Northwestern. The Macks have a different roster from the team’s state appearances in 2016 and 2017, but as the team looks for its third straight trip to Madison, the win showed just what the high-scoring squad is capable of.
“Every team is different and this team definitely has its character and it’s the team that has faced the most adversity,” Sherbinow said. “Since the beginning of the year we just had things totally run out from underneath us one way or another. They’ve stayed strong. We’re young and we’ve played good teams all year but I think we just stuck with it, stuck to our game plan, didn’t start questioning each other, believed in each other and what we’re doing so they definitely deserve to be in this position.”