Somerset comes up short in battle for MBC boys basketball title
The three-point shot has been very good to the Somerset boys basketball team over the final month of the Middle Border Conference season.
But when the Spartans relied on their outside shooting the most, it faltered. With the Middle Border Conference championship on the line, the Spartans lost to Durand 49-46. Durand wins the 2012-13 championship with a 13-1 record. The Spartans finish the MBC season with a 12-2 record.
The Spartans now turn their attention to the WIAA Division 3 tournaments. They will play their first tournament game this Friday. The Spartans are seeded second in the regional tournament field. They will face either Spooner or Ladysmith on Friday.
Friday's clash with Durand brought a crowd of more than 1,300 fans to the Somerset gym. The Spartans started slowly on offense and they spent most of the game trying to gain ground. Durand led 9-1 five minutes into the action and 14-5 after the first quarter.
The Spartans were able to establish Gaelin Elmore as a scoring threat in the second quarter. The Spartans took their first lead at 21-20 when Tyler Ledbeter went the length of the court for a layup with 1:44 left in the half. Durand scored the last five points of the half, including a steal and layup just before the halftime buzzer, to make the halftime score 25-21.
The start of the second half was much like the first, with the Spartans struggling at the offensive end. Durand was able to extend its lead to 36-26 midway through the third quarter. Somerset trailed 39-33 entering the fourth quarter.
Full-court pressure had been one of Somerset's best assets in the game and the Spartans cranked up the pressure in the fourth quarter. The Spartans cut Durand's lead to 45-44 when Reggie Larson scored off a feed from Elmore with 1:44 left in the game.
After a Durand missed free throw, the Spartans took the lead when Elmore scored off a lob pass with 59 seconds left on the clock.
Durand was able to regain the lead with 36 seconds left when Drew Minturn scored on a layup. Somerset coach Brent Larson said Durand ran a screen for Minturn and the Spartans didn't pick up Minturn coming off the screen.
Somerset then put up a hurried three-pointer with 28 seconds left, which Durand rebounded. Durand's Jake Weber hit two free throws to make the margin three points.
Somerset ran a play trying to set up a three-point shot to send the game into overtime. Durand's defense forced the Spartans to improvise and the ball went to Luke Praschak in front of the Somerset bench. With none of his teammates able to get free as a passing option, Praschak was forced to put up a long three-point attempt at the buzzer and his shot bounced off the back iron.
Outside shooting was doubly damaging for the Spartans in this game. The Spartans made just 20 percent of their three-point shots (5-25). And because many of the shots were taken early in possessions, the Spartans weren't in position to get many offensive rebounds.
"I would have liked to see more attacking and less reliance on the three-pointer," Coach Larson said. "The effort level was good. We just didn't knock down shots."
Larson said he would have preferred to see the Spartans get the ball more to Elmore in the paint. The Spartans got both of Durand's big men into foul trouble and Elmore took advantage, accumulating 26 points and 12 rebounds.
The cold outside shooting was a departure from the Spartans' recent run of success. In last Tuesday's 79-53 win at Amery, the Spartans hit 50 percent of their three-point attempts (13-26). Elmore went 7-11 from beyond the arc and Jack Emmert made 3-7 attempts.
Elmore scored a career-high 34 points at Amery and Emmert finished with 15 points.
The Spartans lost to Amery in the opening half of the MBC schedule and the Spartans went into the game fully prepared to make sure another upset wouldn't happen. Amery led 19-17 after the first quarter, but the Spartans took a 37-30 lead by halftime. They steadily built on that lead through the second half.