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Comets edge T-Birds in opener

Peyton Tuma looks for an open Waupaca teammate in the Comets’ 28-26 win over Iola-Scandinavia. Greg Seubert Photo

Waupaca girls have new coach

By Greg Seubert

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win for Adam Chaplin in his first time on the court as coach of the Waupaca girls’ basketball team.

The Comets scored only eight points in the second half, but it was enough for a 28-26 nonconference win over Iola-Scandinavia Nov. 14 in the season opener for both teams.

The team didn’t have a coach in place until four days before the Comets held their first practice Nov. 6.

“I didn’t know anybody and came in right before the season,” said Chaplin, who has coached boys’ basketball teams in Weyauwega-Fremont before accepting his first varsity position. “I had a player meeting and felt good about that. The kids told me they were ready to win this year.”

Winning is something the program hasn’t experienced much in recent years. The Comets haven’t finished above .500 since the 2007-08 season and won a total of 14 games in the last five seasons.

Chaplin knows he won’t turn the program around in one season, but said he’s up for the challenge.

“I just brought some stuff with me that I ran in the past and they picked up on it really quick,” he said. “They’ve been doing a good job.”

Low numbers mean the Comets will not have JV1 or JV2 teams this year. The varsity roster lists 11 players, but only nine of them suited up in the opener against the Thunderbirds.

Ava Printz brings the ball up the court for Iola-Scandinavia in the Thunderbirds’ season opener against Waupaca. Greg Seubert Photo

Comets tale lead in first half

Waupaca trailed early and took the lead for good at 10-8 on Hailey Bechard’s three-point play midway through the first half. The Comets led by as many as eight points in the first half and had a 20-13 lead at the break.

The T-Birds trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, but used a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 28-26 with just over a minute remaining.

Iola-Scandinavia had a pair of opportunities to send the game into overtime. A missed free throw gave the T-Birds the ball with 10 seconds on the clock and a Waupaca foul with 1 second on the clock sent McKenzie Bonikowske to the free-throw line. Bonikowske needed to make both free throws to extend the game, but missed the first and the game ended.

“We had a sloppy second half with turnovers, a lot of mistakes on offense and not running what we were supposed to be running,” Chaplin said. “That comes with youth and inexperience. There were a lot of jitters, a lot of nerves. I don’t know how many layups and bunnies we missed tonight, but it was a lot. I think we got a little gassed there at the end and that cost us.”

Bechard was the only player in the game to finish in double figures with a game-high 10 points. Katie Rosenthal led Iola-Scandinavia with eight points.

“Effort and hustle,” Chaplin said when asked what he is looking for in his team in the first few games of the season. “There’s a big saying out there that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. If we can survive on hustle and effort, we’ll live with the result.”

An early-season win – especially with a new coach – is big for the Comets, according to Chaplin.

“It gives them confidence and they feel good about it,” he said. “There hasn’t been a lot of success here and hopefully, we can experience a little more this year and just build on it.

“I thought it went good,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement and we’ll find a lot of things to improve on. It was a good first win. We’ll enjoy it tonight and move on tomorrow.”

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