Bowler boys basketball team spoils Marion’s bid to win conference outright

Brunner leads way for Bowler with 19 points
Luke Reimer

The Bowler High School boys basketball team spoiled Marion’s shot at winning the Central Wisconsin Conference-North Division title outright on Feb. 24 in Bowler.

In a hard-fought battle on senior night, Bowler pulled away late to beat Marion 67-62. Senior Beau Brunner led the scoring for Bowler with 19 points. Fellow seniors Tristan Thiex and Emmitt Kietlinski added another 15 and 17 points, respectively.

For Marion, Parker Miller led the team with 30 points. No other Mustang scored in double figures.

While Brunner opened scoring early in the game, his most impactful points came toward the end of the game. Up 56-53, Brunner made a 3-point shot and scored on two offensive rebounds off of missed free throws, all with less than five minutes remaining.

“I just narrowed it down and focused,” said Brunner, on his late game heroics. “In my mind I just said that I need to get these rebounds.”

The win in the final game of the regular season pushed Bowler’s record to 10-14, but 7-5 in conference. Marion finishes the regular season with a 13-11 overall mark and a conference record of 10-2. That 10-2 record is tied with Northland Lutheran for the top of the conference.

“It is a great feeling — we have a great group of guys and we have worked through a lot of adversity,” said Marion senior Jaden Stuhr on finishing at the top of the conference.

Even though Marion still won conference, Kietlinski described the feeling of preventing them from winning outright.

“It felt really good. For us to prevent them from winning it outright felt really good, honestly,” said Kietlinski. “We didn’t have anything to play for, but us seniors winning our final home game felt really nice.”

Even though they would have wanted to win the game and claim the outright title, Marion still finished first in the conference for the first time since 1968, when Dick Bennett was coaching the team.

“It feels good knowing that we at least tied for first, but we came here tonight hoping to finish it outright, but that didn’t happen — not much you can do about it now,” said Miller.

Marion opened the game on a 10-5 run, with six quick points coming from Miller. Scoring stayed steady through most of the first half, with Bowler clawing back to a one-point deficit. The Panthers took their first lead late in the first half with a 3-point make from junior Danian Schultz to make the score 21-19. Kietlinski then found success going to the paint, making a post fade away followed by a fastbreak dunk.

Bowler eventually built its largest lead of the first half with another Kietlinski fastbreak layup, making it 31-23 with about two minutes remaining. A five-point run from Stuhr cut Bowler’s lead to three entering halftime.

Coming out of halftime, Marion shifted to a 2-3 zone and found success generating steals and tipped passes. The zone defense allowed the Mustangs to get back on top, 44-43. Bowler then took a hit, when senior guard Marcus Malone fouled out of the game early in the second half. With an already depleted bench, Bowler was forced to use just five players for the rest of the game.

“We just slowed it down a little bit instead of having a fast-paced game,” said Brunner, on how the offense changed after Malone left the game. “We just tried to play and not turn the ball over.”

Marion got back on top thanks to an open layup from Miller, but that was short lived as Bowler responded with six straight points on two free throws from Thiex, a putback layup by Schultz and layup from Kietlinski.

The teams traded baskets on the next couple of possessions, before a free throw late in the game from Thiex gave Bowler a 60-55 lead. Marion cut the lead to three before Brunner found himself wide open under the hoop after a missed three. He made the layup and brought the lead back to five.

Miller scored a layup immediately after. Brunner was then fouled, but he missed the subsequent free throw. On the rebound, Marion fumbled the ball out of bounds and Bowler took back over. After hitting free throws and exchanging baskets, Bowler held off Marion’s late push to win the game.

“We were able to stay in the game by forgetting about the little mistakes and learning from them quickly in the game,” said Miller.

Marion 28 34 — 62

Bowler 31 36 — 67

Marion (62): Parker Miller 4-6 30, Jaden Stuhr 1-3 9, Izan Bueno 0-0 7, Sam Gueths 0-0 6, Jack Van Kooy 0-0 4, Ryan Malueg 0-0 4, Jackson Krohn 0-0 2.

Bowler (67): Beau Brunner 0-4 19, Emmitt Kietlinski 3-4 17, Tristan Thiex 7-8 15, Danian Schultz 2-2 13, Marcus Malone 0-1 2, Brady Strassburg 1-2 1.