Hoffman buzzer beater lifts Gresham to victory over Wolves

Wildcats remain undefeated in CWC-North

Leader photo by Jacy Zollar Gresham Community High School senior Drew Haffner drives past Manawa’s Nathaniel Reynolds during the first half of a 69-68 victory on Tuesday.

Jake Hoffman knew he had the bucket from the moment the ball left his hand. The freshman’s jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining sealed Gresham’s 69-68 victory over Manawa in a Tuesday matchup between the top two teams in the Central Wisconsin Conference-North.

“Right away, I could feel that it was going to go in,” Hoffman said. “It’s pretty shocking. It’s hard to put it in words what that moment felt like. And the team energy after that was amazing.”

“These guys are the quietest bunch of guys, and they were going crazy in the locker room afterward,” Gresham head coach Jeff Zobeck agreed. “It was the loudest I’ve probably ever heard them. Just a great experience for those kids.”

Manawa built a 10-point lead with 3:45 left in the second half, but the Wildcats fired up with buckets in transition off steals to take seven of the next 12 points and trail by five with a minute remaining.

Todd Otradovec sank a 3-pointer, and the Wolves missed a shot at the line to ultimately give Gresham a chance for the lead from an inbounds play under its basket with 2.7 seconds left.

The Wildcats had two attempts at the final play, neither of which went as originally called. Otradovec drew a non-shooting foul to stop the clock at 0.8 seconds before Hoffman’s final jumper.

“We actually didn’t execute either of them right,” Zobeck said. “We planned to slip Todd (Otradovec) backside, but (Manawa) did a good job of defending it. We’ve worked on it in practice, but not recently. We haven’t had a lot of games that have come down to one play like that. But Jake (Hoffman) made a huge shot, which was great to see.

“That was really just a great high school basketball game against two really good teams. I think we played our best defense all year against a really tough team, and (Manawa’s) defense really stepped up, too.”

Defensive pressure by both teams created a turnover-heavy matchup and scores in transition.

“There were some plays there where Drew (Haffner) and Todd (Otradovec) turned the ball over, which is uncharacteristic of them,” Zobeck said, “but both teams played man-to-man almost the whole night, so that’s likely to happen more. I knew from scouting (Manawa) that they were susceptible to turn the ball over. So late in the game I was pretty confident that we could at least get some opportunities, and fortunately we did.”

The Wildcats had the edge in the opening half and held a three-point lead at halftime, 34-31, but battled back-and-forth through six lead changes during the half before dropping the lead early in the second.

A game-high 26 points — 13 per half — and seven assists by Otradovec ultimately carried the Wildcats over the Wolves.

“Todd (Otradovec) was really aggressively taking it to the basket,” Zobeck said, “and the other guys did a great job of helping him. He had a tough matchup against the biggest guy on the court and was still able to play aggressive defense and get the most points on the board.”

Haffner chipped in 15 points and a team-high nine assists, and Raven Bennett added 12 points for the Wildcats.

Manawa had five players shoot double figures, led by Seth Forbes and Mason Wiesner with 13 apiece.

The win keeps Gresham undefeated in the conference (13-5, 10-0 CWC) while Manawa (10-9, 7-2 CWC) remains second. The Wildcats also secured at least a tie for the conference title, with one more win securing the championship.

“We’ve worked so hard for this, this season,” Hoffman said, “so it feels really good to know we’ve achieved at least a tie, but we want to win out. So we’re hungry finishing the season and getting ready for postseason.”

Gresham (69)

Haffner 0-0 9, Bennett 0-0 12, Paiser 4-6 15, Hoffman 1-2 7, Otradovec 0-1 26

Manawa (68)

Forbes 2-2 13, Mason Wiesner 1-2 13, Reynolds 2-2 2, Griesbach 0-0 10, Ethan Wiesner 2-4 8, Koehn 1-2 12, Sachtjen 0-0 10

Gresham 34 35 — 69

Manawa 31 37 — 68