The Somerset boys basketball team was saying “Thank Heaven” after Friday’s game against St. Croix Central.
Somerset may have hoped to play a fast-paced game, but Central had other plans. The Panthers slowed the game down drastically. By doing so, it forced the Spartans to either adjust to that pace or push Central to speed up its play. It took the Spartans some time to adjust. They turned the ball over 17 times, a quarter of their possessions.
With the slowed pace, Somerset held an 8-6 lead after the first quarter. Hunt’s shooting bailed out the Spartans in the second quarter. The team scored 21 points and Hunt had 20 of them, allowing the Spartans to build a 29-22 lead by halftime. Hunt hit five three-pointers in the quarter.
“Heaven’s put in a ton of work the past two summers,” said Somerset coach Brent Larson. “He’s quick enough to get to the rim too.”
In the second half, the Spartans began driving hard to the basket to get their offense rolling. That was led by Jack Emmert, who scored nine of his 10 points in the second half, seven of them from the line. Emmert also had six assists to lead the team.
Spartan center Gaelin Elmore’s contributions were limited by foul trouble. He finished with 11 points and led the team with six rebounds.
Larson said he expects more teams to follow Central’s example and try to slow the Spartans down.
“We’ve got to find ways to speed them up and get them uncomfortable. We need to be disruptive in the half-court defense,” Larson said to how the team will approach future opponents who play at a controlled pace.
Friday’s game was played at a drastically different pace from the Spartans’ game last Tuesday, when they won at Baldwin-Woodville 73-63.
Emmert and Baldwin-Woodville guard Logan Weyer both had strong games, with Emmert scoring 20 points and Weyer 24. Emmert caught fire in the second half after scoring two points in the opening half.
The difference in the game was Elmore. Baldwin-Woodville had nobody who could stop the Spartan center around the basket. Elmore finished with 26 points. Many of those came on putbacks as he racked up a career-high 19 rebounds.
Elmore also shared the team lead in assists with four, along with Zac Waalen, who contributed nine points. Hunt scored 11 at Baldwin.
If the Spartans have hopes of winning the Middle Border Conference championship this season, then this Friday’s game will be one of the pivotal games of their season. The Spartans play at Prescott Friday. The Cards were projected as the favorite in the MBC race at the start of the season and they’ve done nothing to cause doubt. The Cards are 6-1 overall and 3-0 in conference games.
Larson said it was fortunate this was the Spartans’ only game of the week, so they can concentrate on how to crack Prescott’s 1-3-1 zone defense and iron out some of the issues that came to light in Friday’s game against St. Croix Central.