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New Richmond boys basketball handles Ellsworth in Middle Border Conference opener

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Until they are knocked off, the New Richmond boys basketball can still play "King of the Hill" in the Middle Border Conference.

It's a new season, but the Tigers started the 2012-13 MBC schedule with another victory, winning at Ellsworth last Tuesday, 55-41.

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On Saturday the Tigers suffered their first loss of the season, but it came in a game that provided a needed challenge for the Tigers. The game wasn't decided until regulation was completed, with Eau Claire Memorial hitting two free throws after the final buzzer had sounded to defeat the Tigers 48-47.

Eau Claire Memorial

This game pitted two western Wisconsin boys hoops heavyweights against each other and it played out that way. While both teams weren't their sharpest coming off the holiday, they both played at peak intensity.

Memorial led 7-6 as both offenses plodded along in the first quarter. The production picked up steadily, with the scored tied 22-22 at halftime. The score remained tight until the Tigers went on an 8-0 run late in the third quarter. Memorial's Ben Everhart hit a three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer, trimming the Tigers' lead to 37-32.

"That shot took momentum away, even though we were still leading by five," said New Richmond coach Rick Montreal.

The game was close through the final moments. Twice, the Tigers were able to take the lead in the final minute by perfectly running plays that had been diagrammed during timeouts. The first produced a layup for senior Joey Miller. The second play produced a hoop for Jake LaMirande with 18 seconds left, putting the Tigers ahead 47-46.

The Tigers were able to force Memorial into a difficult shot in the final seconds, but Memorial had a couple putback attempts before Memorial's Nick Uthe was fouled at the buzzer. Uthe hit both free throws, giving the Old Abes the win.

Montreal said there were a number of positives from this game, but also a few points of concern. He said the starting five and sixth man Zac Parfitt all gave an exemplary effort.

"The first five have been a surprise, how well they're playing together," Montreal said. "They take pride in their defense. They've been very cohesive, very solid."

While the top six players on the roster performed well, Montreal said he is looking for players to step up to fill the rest of the reserve roles. He said none of the bench candidates strengthened their case against Memorial.

The Tigers gave up a considerable amount of height in this game, with Memorial starting post players who stood 6-7 and 6-6. Montreal said senior Taner Hoppe neutralized that height advantage.

"Taner's tough to take off the floor. He does so much for us on defense and he's our best communicator," Montreal said.

Senior Joe Deppe led the Tigers with 18 points at Memorial, but he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. With the Old Abes putting so much of their defensive focus on Deppe, he was used as a decoy, setting up teammates. LaMirande scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter. LaMirande also led the Tigers with seven rebounds. Miller generated four steals and four assists to lead the Tigers in both areas.

Ellsworth

Ellsworth was able to keep last Tuesday's game close in the first half, before the Tigers pulled away to win comfortably, 55-41.

Ellsworth stuck with a zone defense the entire game. It took the Tigers a bit of time to adjust, but soon they were able to generate top quality shots. Deppe made sure of that, scoring nine points in the first quarter. He finished with 20 points for the night.

The Tigers thoroughly controlled the play in the post at both ends of the court. The Tigers had a large advantage in rebounds, with LaMirande and Deppe each grabbing seven. Miller chased down six rebounds and led the Tigers with four steals.

Through their first three games, the Tigers are averaging 51 points per game. Montreal said the coaches have been pleasantly surprised that the offense has not had any extended struggles thus far.

Schedule

The Tigers face their third Big Rivers Conference opponent of the season this Friday, when the Tigers host Chippewa Falls. That's the first of four straight home games for the Tigers. The next of those games will arrive on Tuesday, Dec. 11, when the Tigers face Durand.

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