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Austin Wodarz (34), a new addition to the Spartan varsity roster, contributed seven points in Friday's win over St. Croix Falls.

Somerset boys rock St. Croix Falls in basketball season opener

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If the Somerset boys basketball team was behind in its training because many of the players were involved in the Spartans' state football championship, it didn't show.

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The Spartans opened their season on Friday night against St. Croix Falls. It took the Spartans a few minutes to locate their shooting touch. But they soon shook off the rust, burying the Saints 75-37.

While the Spartans' shooting wasn't at its sharpest, the other traits that carried the team to last year's sectional final were fully evident. The Spartan defense swarmed all over the Saints, causing dozens of turnovers. The Spartans also dominated the rebounding at both ends of the court.

The starting lineup for the team is packed with familiar faces, with Gaelin Elmore, Reggie Larson and Luke Praschak in the front line, and Tyler Ledbeter and Jack Emmert back at guard. Matt Skoglund returns as the team's sixth man.

One of the bigger differences for the Spartans this season will be the depth on the team's bench. Many of the reserves were playing their first varsity game, but they showed they are ready to contribute at the varsity level. David Richard, Austin Wodarz, Zach Waalen and JT Karis led the new Spartans by having a positive impact during Friday's game.

The Spartans trailed 7-6 halfway through the first quarter. The Spartans then cranked up their fierce defense and it quickly swayed the game in Somerset's favor. By the end of the first quarter the Spartans had built their lead to 17-10.

Offensive rebounding was another aspect that worked in Somerset's favor. The Spartans had nine offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone, led by four from Larson.

After the Saints scored the first hoop of the second quarter, the Spartans put together a 16-2 run that buried the Saints. By halftime the Spartans led 41-18.

In the second half, Somerset coach Brent Larson used his reserves heavily, with the starters barely seeing any court time in the fourth quarter.

Eleven Spartans were able to score in the game. Ledbeter led the team with 12 points, Elmore scored 11 and Emmert finished with 10.

"At the beginning of the year we like to play a lot of guys," Coach Larson explained. "It gets more buy-in from everyone. The practices are more competitive."

The Spartans played this game with exactly one week of practice under their belts, following the late completion of the football season.

"Some of the skill stuff is a little behind," Coach Larson said. "They'll get better at finishing at the rim and their conditioning will get better."

Larson, in his fifth season coaching the Spartans, now ranks second in seniority among the Middle Border Conference coaches. There are four new head coaches in the conference this season.

The Spartans have another substantial gap before they play their second game of the season. They don't play again until next Tuesday, when they travel to Baldwin-Woodville to begin their MBC schedule.

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