Girls basketball: New Richmond aims at title; Somerset, Central are building
After winning the Middle Border Conference title and finishing a game short of the championship last year, the New Richmond girls basketball team is looking to return to the pinnacle of the MBC this season.
The five Tiger starters have largely remained the same over the past two seasons. With that much experience assembled, the Tigers have a familiarity with their teammates that few teams ever possess.
“We have the same makeup, the same DNA,” Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer said of the 2013-14 team. “It’s pretty comfortable. The girls understand each other.”
Kanewischer said he thought the conference MVP honor should have gone to Tiger guard Sydney Kannel last year, but Durand’s Lexi Harmon received the honor.
“We expect (the opposition’s) eyes will be on Kannel. We’ll use that to our advantage,” Kanewischer said.
The Tigers don’t need Kannel to score 20 points per game for the team to be successful. With center Mattie Kidder, forwards Maddie Kelly and Hannah Simpson and guard Hannah Swetlik returning as starters, The Tigers have five girls who can score in double figures in any game. Kanewischer said the starters are even better in the defensive end of the court.
“That’s my favorite thing, to see the girls be disciplined for 32 minutes. That’s something I’ve tried to bring pride into the program in.”
The MBC race was a three-team battle last season and all three combatants come back fully loaded this season. Baldwin-Woodville won the title, a game ahead of the Tigers. Durand was in third, finishing just behind the Tigers.
“We feel we belong at the top,” Kanewischer said for his expectations of the MBC season. “There’s a pressure to that, but we feel we can handle that pressure.
While New Richmond brings back a heavily experienced team, Somerset may have the least experienced team since the advent of the Spartan program.
This year’s Somerset team is all sophomores and freshmen. There were no seniors expected to return this season, but several juniors who were counted on decided not to play this season.
So sophomores and a large group of freshmen will make up the Spartan roster this season. There is a total of 19 girls in the program.
Somerset coach Kendrick Livers said the team will be young, but he doesn’t think that will be a drawback for long.
“We’re young and we’re hoping to compete in every game. I think we will,” he said.
Five Spartan sophomores saw playing time at the varsity level last year as freshmen and they will all have roles on the varsity this year.
“All the sophomores coming back look better,” Livers said.
The freshmen come in as a group that’s seen substantial success in the youth levels.
“Their basketball knowledge is strong,” Livers said. “They understand, in order to be successful, you have to work hard at it.”
Livers said he expects Baldwin-Woodville, New Richmond and Durand to return to their perch as the top three teams in the conference. He said he expects the Spartans to be competitive with all the other teams in the MBC.
St. Croix Central
There’s a fresh slate for the Panther girls to work from this season. After graduating six seniors from a team that struggled to a 6-17 record last season, the Panthers are starting fresh this season.
The Panthers have reasons to be optimistic. With five veteran players returning, they have the pieces in place to be competitive immediately. The Panther junior varsity team had an excellent season a year ago, with several of those girls ready to move up to contribute on the varsity.
Panther coach Luke Fritsche said he thinks senior Kayla Pabst and sophomore Emma Landry can be one of the best post tandems in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference. Pabst is fully recovered from a knee injury suffered last season.
In seniors McKenzy Johnson and Brooke Kopacz and junior Lauren Moll the Panthers have an athletic trio of guards who are skilled at both ends of the court. Fritsche said he expects Ella Scott and Abby Olson to be his top reserves.
“I think we’ll be a team that other teams underestimate,” Fritsche predicted. “The girls are very hard workers and the leadership has been good.”
Because of the major personnel changes after last season, the Panthers played a heavier tournament schedule over the summer to get the starters accustomed to playing together.
There are few teams with a tougher start to the schedule than the Panthers. They were slated to face defending Middle Border Conference champion Baldwin-Woodville on Tuesday. The Panthers begin their Dunn-St. Croix Conference schedule on Thursday, Dec. 5, when they play at defending WIAA state champion Colfax.