Somerset girls basketball upsets unbeaten St. Croix Falls 60-45
The young Somerset girls basketball team is becoming battle tested in a hurry.
In a five-day stretch, the Spartans faced the teams with the three best records in this WIAA Division 3 regional bracket. The Spartans came away with one upset victory and two games where they left strong impressions against state-ranked opponents.
The win came last Thursday when the Spartans went to St. Croix Falls and knocked off the previously unbeaten Saints 60-45. The Spartans faced another unbeaten opponent on Friday when they battled Middle Border Conference leader Baldwin-Woodville. The Spartans showed they were up to the challenge, leading 19-13 late in the first half before B-W finished the half with a 6-0 rally to tie the score. The Hawks were able to pull ahead in the second half, winning 58-40.
Baldwin-Woodville is ranked sixth in the state in Division 3. On Monday the Spartans met the seventh-ranked team, Hayward. The Spartans put up another competitive effort, falling to the Hurricanes 67-55.
When the Spartans began the string of games the three teams had a combined record of 39-1, with Baldwin-Woodville (14-0), St. Croix Falls (12-0) and Hayward (13-1).
The evolving maturity of the Spartan team showed when they fell behind 22-12 against the unbeaten Saints in the first quarter of last Thursday’s game. By halftime the Spartans had cut the Saints’ lead to 29-27. In the third quarter they pulled ahead and maintained a double-digit lead through most of the fourth quarter.
Freshmen Tori Martell and Abbie Rivard led the Spartans, with Martell scoring 27 points and Rivard 12 points.
“Our guards were better than theirs, plain and simple,” said Somerset coach Kendrick Livers. “We scrapped and fought to get back into the game.”
The Spartans were ready to scrap again on Friday when they faced B-W. Both teams played hounding defense that kept the score low for most of the opening half. The Spartans trailed 13-11 with three minutes left in the half, until they went on an 8-0 run. Madison Wall and Kaitlyn Strumke hit three-pointers and Wall scored off a steal to put the Spartans ahead 19-13.
The Blackhawks then showed why they are regarded so highly. They took the Spartans’ best shot and answered with one of their own. They forced the Spartans into three turnovers in the final minute of the half, scoring off all three, to tie the game at 19-19.
The Hawks continued that tenacious play in the third quarter, using a 14-0 run to lead 35-21. The Spartans were able to get the margin down to seven points in the second half, but B-W’s poise with the ball made it difficult for the Spartans to gain ground.
Martell led the Spartans with 14 points on Friday and Wall finished with eight points.
Livers was pleased with the Spartans’ effort against a team as highly regarded as the Blackhawks.
“They’re undefeated for a reason,” Livers said. “I wanted to see our girls go out and compete. I was proud of their effort.”
When the Spartans hosted Hayward on Monday, they ran up against a 1-3-1 press that gave them major problems early in the game. Hayward forced the Spartans into 11 turnovers in the first quarter. Once the Spartans solved the press, they only committed eight turnovers in the rest of the game.
Hayward used those turnovers to build a lead in the first quarter. The Spartans never relented, cutting the Hurricanes’ lead to eight points in the fourth quarter. Hayward went into a stall for much of the fourth quarter, which Livers saw as a sign that the Spartans had earned their opponent’s respect.
“They went to the stall because they wanted to keep the ball out of our hands,” Livers said.
The offensive leaders in the game were a pair of left-handers. Martell scored 24 points to lead the Spartans, while Hayward was led by lefty senior Morgan Johnson, who scored 28 points.
Rivard added 12 points for the Spartans, with the rest of the scoring well distributed among the team.
In the upcoming days the Spartans have the chance to avenge a pair of close MBC losses. They play at Prescott on Friday before hosting Amery next Tuesday. The Spartans lost the first round games against Prescott and Amery by a combined nine points. Livers said this is a good chance for his team to show how much it has improved.
“I think we’re a little tougher now,” Livers said.