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The Somerset boys basketball team huddles together for a photo after defeating Ellsworth on Saturday, March 1, and claiming the WIAA Division 3 boys basketball regional championship. The boys had also claimed a share of the Middle Border Conference title for the regular season. (Photo by Michele Bauer)

Spartans defeat Ellsworth to win regional hoops title

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The Somerset Spartans boys basketball team knocked off the Ellsworth Panthers 78-64 in overtime in front of their home crowd on Saturday, March 1, to claim their third straight WIAA regional champi­onship.

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“We really showed some grit in the overtime period and down the stretch when we needed to,” Somerset coach Brent Larson said. “In overtime, we did a really good job of creating turnovers and harassing their players so they couldn’t get off easy shots. We really showed our toughness.”

The Spartans led by as many as 13 points in the third period, but the Panthers fought their way back and took a lead late in the fourth quarter. Somerset regained the lead with 90 seconds left in the game, going up by one followed by another shot by Gaelin Elmore, which put the Spartans up by three.

“It was not looking good at that point for us,” Larson said. “They had a lot of momentum and were up by one with not a lot of time left. But Gaelin was able to make a shot to put us up by one then Heaven Hunt knocked down a layup to put us up by three. However, Ellsworth came right back down and tied it up with a three-pointer with 15 sec­onds left.”

Somerset tried to win the game in regulation but was unable to get a shot to go before the buzzer, sending the two teams into overtime.

In the four-minute extra frame, the Spartans took control and never looked back. The team poured on 18 points in overtime to blow the Panthers out of the water and claim the regional cham­pionship.

Leading Somerset in scor­ing were Jack Emmert (24 points, five rebounds, four steals), Austin Wodarz (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Elmore (20 points, five rebounds, four steals). Emmert passed the 1,000­point mark in the game.

Region semis 

In the Spartans’ first game of the playoffs on Friday, Feb. 28, they were able to knock off St. Croix Falls with relative ease, winning 67-46.

“We were up by 10 at the half, but we came out in the second and were able to extend our lead some more,” Larson said. “We were up by 20 or so by the end of the third period because we were able to create some more turnovers and make those into easy buckets.”

According to Larson, Somerset’s press was work­ing in the first half, but it wasn’t until the second half that his team was really able to wear down St. Croix Falls and take over the game.

“We didn’t change any­thing during halftime, we just came out and continued to play our game,” Larson said. “Sometimes the press doesn’t work as well early in the game, but by the end you can fatigue your opponent and get some more turnovers.”

The team was once again led by Elmore who picked up 23 points, six rebounds and three steals against St. Croix Falls. Jonathon Karis led the team in assists with five, while also chipping in seven points. Heaven Hunt was second on the team in scoring with 11 points and also had four rebounds.

“Gaelin had a really good game on Friday,” Larson said. “He got a dunk toward the end of the first quarter that really got the guys jacked up for the rest of the game.”

With the regional champi­onship locked up, the Spartans now head to the section finals to face the co-Middle Border Conference champion Prescott Cardinals at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 6, in New Richmond.

“Prescott is playing really well right now,” Larson said. “We have to come out with a lot of energy and take care of the ball if we want to win. If we can knock down our shots we will be all right.”

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Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Obeserver for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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