Spartan girls sting Osceola, 46-42
The Middle Border Conference girls basketball race is wide open and thanks to a drastically improved performance in the second half on Friday, Somerset's girls are one of five teams tied for the conference lead.
Somerset knocked off Osceola on Friday 46-42. The Spartans are now one of five teams sharing the lead in the MBC with 2-1 records.
Anyone who saw the first half of Friday's game wouldn't have given the Spartans much chance of winning. The Spartans trailed 25-14 at halftime and had been thoroughly outplayed by the Chieftains.
Spartan coach Kendrick Livers urged his team to play under control on offense in the second half. The Spartans had been turning the ball over at a high frequency in the first half.
Along with getting their own offense under control, the Spartan defense drastically turned up the pressure on the Osceola guards in the second half.
Livers has been trying to convince the Spartans they can be a championship team. He said the second half performance is proof of that. He used a boxing comparison to make his point.
"When champions get knocked down, they come back and fight. That's what we did, because that's what we are," Livers said.
Much of Osceola's defensive focus was targeting Spartan senior Ashley Martell, who is closing in on 1,000 points for her career. That pressure worked in the first half, when Martell was limited to two points. Martell got the Spartan comeback started, scoring six straight points in the middle of the third quarter. The Spartans scored the final eight points of the quarter to slice Osceola's lead to 33-30.
The Spartans took their first lead since the opening minute when Martell sank a three-pointer with 6:58 left in the game. That was the only field goal by either team in the fourth quarter.
Osceola wasn't done. The Chieftains used six free throws to take a 40-36 lead with 4:37 left. Somerset came back, with the Spartans' accurate free throw shooting deciding the game. The Spartans hit eight straight free throws to take the lead. The Spartans went 19-24 from the free throw line. That included hitting 16-19 attempts in the fourth quarter.
Martell finished the game with 14 points, leaving her four points short of the 1,000-point milestone. Paige Wagner scored 11 points for the Spartans and Kari Solum finished with four points.
One of the keys to the victory for the Spartans was their defense against Osceola center Paige Garriga. Garriga is one of the leading scorers in the conference, but the Spartan defense limited her to three points, all on free throws. Livers said Garriga has favorite spots on the floor to shoot from, so the Spartans took those spots away. Center Ellie Vanasse led a physical defensive effort that put a body on Garriga every time she shot.
Loss at Ellsworth
Every MBC girls team lost at least once last week. The Spartans led for much of their game last Tuesday, but ended up losing at Ellsworth, 43-38.
It appeared the Spartans were on the verge of breaking this game open at times during the first three quarters. They led 21-14 at halftime and they still held the lead well into the fourth quarter.
Full court pressure has been the deciding factor in nearly every MBC girls game so far this season. That was the case here too, as the Spartans turned the ball over several times in the fourth quarter against intense Ellsworth pressure.
Martell led a balanced Spartan attack at Ellsworth with 10 points. Wagner finished with nine points and Carley Seibel scored eight points.
The Spartans return to action on Friday with a game at Amery, which will start at 6:30 p.m. The Amery boys will host Prescott at 8 p.m.
Next Monday the Spartans play at home, in a conference game against Baldwin-Woodville.