Spartans give Tigers a tournament battle
The Somerset boys basketball team gained a large measure of respect, and self respect, with its performance in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament last Tuesday.
Very few people gave the seventh seeded Spartans any chance of winning against Middle Border Conference co-champion New Richmond. The Spartans, underdogs as they were, never gave up. They cut New Richmond's margin to three points with 22 seconds left in the game. New Richmond was able to go 4-4 from the free throw line in the final 20 seconds to hold off the Spartans, 58-51.
The Spartans finish their first season under coach Brent Larson with a 7-14 record.
Somerset took a 4-0 lead in the game on a three-pointer by Cole Cloutier and a free throw from Bryan Witzmann. New Richmond followed with an 8-0 run to take a lead it would never relinquish.
While the Spartans couldn't get the lead back, they reminded in striking distance throughout the game. It seemed that the Spartans were able to make a run at the end of each quarter. They got a three-pointer from Rocky Larson at the end of the first half to cut New Richmond's lead to 24-19.
New Richmond threatened to pull away early in the second half. The Spartans responded with a surge of their own, cutting the New Richmond lead to 34-31.
In the fourth quarter the lead reached double figures as New Richmond went ahead 51-40 with 3:10 left in the game. Senior David Moulton then stoked a major Spartan comeback.
Moulton hit two three-pointers and a pair of free throws, narrowing the margin to 53-48 with 1:39 left. Luke Buerkley scored to make the score 54-50 with :22 seconds left. Jordan Hansen was fouled fighting for rebounding position on Buerkley's shot. Hansen made one of two free throws to make the score 54-51.
The Spartans were able to give this type of battle while playing without center Bryan Witzmann for much of the game. Witzmann got into early trouble with fouls and was limited to five points in the game.
Moulton had one of his best games of the season for the Spartans, finishing the night with 20 points. Buerkley finished with 11 points.
The Spartans graduate Moulton, Witzmann, Cloutier and Phil Vanasse from this year's team. The return a solid nucleus for next season led by Buerkley, Larson, Hansen, Brendan Weise and Ben Kieckhoefer.
"I was lucky with the kids I got. As far as attitude, they're good kids," Larson said of his first-year coaching experience. "We've got quality kids coming back. They'll work hard for you. We've just got to improve the skill level."