Spartan girls take sole leadership of MBC girls basketball race
The sole leader in the tightly packed Middle Border Conference girls basketball race is Somerset.
The Spartan girls went to Durand and knocked off the defending MBC champions 43-41. The win raised Somerset to 5-1 in the conference standings. Prescott, Osceola and Durand are all right on the Spartans' heels, with two losses each.
Friday's win at Durand was a tale of two halves. The Spartans played incredibly in the first half, building up a 32-11 lead by halftime.
Instead of playing with the same attacking mentality they used in the first half, the Spartans became cautious in the second half. Spartan coach Kendrick Livers said he was concerned that the girls got complacent, thinking no team could overcome a 21-point deficit.
Durand did just that, tying the game on a banked-in three-pointer in the final seconds of the game. Inexplicably, a Durand player then fouled Somerset senior Ashley Martell with 1.8 seconds left in the clock.
Martell calmly went to the line and drained both free throws, but the drama still wasn't over. Durand inbounded the ball to mid-court and their long three-point attempt bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.
Martell led the Spartans with 14 points. Paige Wagner scored 13 points. Point guard Karli Solum was key in several ways for the Spartans. She scored eight points, finished with a game-high 15 rebounds and held Durand's leading scorer, Teisha Wagner, to nine points.
"I'd say Solum's been our MVP," Livers said, "because she defends the other team's best players and runs our offense and keeps us composed."
The balance in Somerset's attack led to the large first half advantage. Durand tried to press at the start of the game, but the Spartans had no problems breaking the press. Durand then tried to use a zone defense, but Somerset's strong outside shooting forced the Panthers to abandon the zone.
The second half was the inverse of the first. It was Durand that was now hitting the outside shots and the Spartans that couldn't find the scoring touch. The Spartans scored six points in the third quarter, then were outscored 19-5 in the fourth quarter.
"Durand plays good team defense and they never quit. Most teams you get them down that far and they quit," Livers said.
While the Spartans are leading the conference now, Livers said the MBC is to evenly talented for the Spartans to assume it will be easy to hang on to the lead.
The Spartans return to action on Friday, when they play at New Richmond. The Spartans will play at home next Tuesday, in a tough non-conference matchup against Boyceville.