New Richmond girls basketball declared ready to contend
There was a bluntness rarely seen from New Richmond girls basketball coach Jeff Kanewischer when asked if his team was ready to play at a peak level now that the 2014 portion of the Tigers’ season has begun.
“We’re there,” Kanewischer said unflinchingly. “In my mind, we’re functioning at the level we need to be at.”
You could say the Tigers got battle tested in their opening game of 2014 last Friday when they hosted the River Falls Wildcats. The Tigers and Wildcats always seem to end up in a heated scrap that goes right down to the final seconds and this was no different, with the Tigers winning 42-40 to raise their season record to 7-2.
River Falls is led by center Karly Murphy, who is averaging 16 points per game.
“Our game plan was to keep the ball out of Murphy’s hands,” Kanewischer said.
The Tigers were concentrating so heavily on Murphy in the first quarter that the Wildcat guards were left open on the perimeter and they knocked down four three-pointers in the opening quarter to give the Wildcats the lead.
For the second quarter the Tigers made some defensive adjustments that allowed them to maintain pressure on Murphy while taking away the Wildcats’ open looks from the outside. That resulted in the Tigers limiting the Wildcats to five points in the second quarter and the Tigers taking the lead.
The Tigers didn’t have a great offensive third quarter, but Hannah Simpson hit a pair of three-pointers to keep the game in balance. The Tigers were able to up the pace in the fourth quarter, building a lead that stood at 5-7 points for most of the quarter. The Wildcats hit a long three-pointer at the final buzzer to cut the margin to two points.
This game validated Kanewischer’s opinion that the Tigers are at full strength. Simpson showed she is fully recovered from her elbow injury, leading the team with 15 points. Kanewischer said her return gives the team a third top scorer to go with Sydney Kannel and Mattie Kidder that will make the team much more difficult to defend. Kannel finished with 12 points on Friday, 10 of them coming in the first half. When the Wildcats shifted more defensive attention to Kannel, it opened up Kidder, who scored seven of her nine points in the second half.
If teams want to get into a defensive battle with the Tigers, they will have their hands full. The Tigers held Murphy to 10 points on Friday, with Kanewischer saying that senior Maddie Kelly deserved the credit for that success.
“Kelly is so great on defense for us. She gives up 5-6 inches to some of these girls and she just battles,” Kanewischer said.
There are a number of teams hoping to stay among the contenders in the Middle Border Conference race. The Tigers will face one of them on Friday when they play at Amery. New Richmond and Amery began the week with 3-1 conference records, one game behind MBC leader Baldwin-Woodville.