Witt-Birn boys basketball team struggles in loss to Merrill

Chargers bogged down by press
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School boys basketball team struggled against Merrill’s press during a 62-42 nonconference loss on Feb. 13 in Wittenberg.
The Chargers turned the ball over on their first possession of the contest. It turned out to be a sign of things to come, as Merrill put on a press that Witt-Birn struggled to break all night.

“We dug ourselves a hole early — they went up almost 10 points right away. We kind of came back, but we couldn’t really recover from that,” said Witt-Birn’s Mason Meverden. “We struggled with their pressure a little bit. We should have been able to break it more easily, I thought, but that kind of threw us off.”

After Witt-Birn’s Marshall Fraaza scored to tie the game at two, Merrill tallied the next nine points to take control.

Meverden finally got the Chargers going with a couple 3-pointers. After the hosts cut the deficit to three, 13-10, Merrill hit two 3-pointers to go back up nine. Witt-Birn answered back with a Meverden triple and Casey Kielman basket, but that was the closest the Chargers got the rest of the way.

Merrill ended the half on a 12-1 run, taking advantage of a few more Witt-Birn turnovers.

“I think it was their press, their pressure, and we just had no energy tonight,” said Fraaza on the difference in the game.

The visiting Bluejays continued their run to start the second half, scoring the first seven points.

Witt-Birn got baskets from Meverden, Fraaza and Kielman to answer. A bit later, a free throw from Meverden and Oliver Fraaza basket made it 41-25.

The Chargers’ offense bogged down after that, only scoring two points over the next three-plus minutes, which allowed the Bluejays to push the lead above 20. After that, Witt-Birn chose to sub five players in and out for the rest of the contest, and Merrill eased to victory.

“We got outworked, including me, all of us. It was just bad,” said Meverden. “They won the effort battle — they were the first to the floor. They got a lot of offensive rebounds. We just need to work harder.”

“We just have to come mentally prepared and ready to play, be on our gameplan, study our stuff,” said Fraaza. “I felt like not everybody knew what they were doing on our sets.”

Meverden led Witt-Birn in scoring with 14 points. Fraaza was the only other Charger over four points, finishing with nine.

Merrill 31 31 — 62

Witt-Birn 16 26 — 42

Merrill (62): Carter Baade 0-0 9, Bradyn Pieper 1-2 20, E.J. Weix 0-0 3, Ondre Houghton 0-0 5, Tyson Glisch 3-4 15, Sam Reimann 0-0 2, Troy Mootz 1-2 8.

Witt-Birn (42): Jett Rogowski 0-0 2, Michael Miller 0-0 2, Marshall Fraaza 1-2 9, Oliver Fraaza 1-4 3, Casey Kielman 0-0 4, Mason Meverden 1-2 16, Keegan Schmid 0-0 2, Ian Salvesen 1-2 4.