Tigers get second seed, keep MBC lead
The New Richmond and Osceola boys basketball teams continue to be tied at the top of the Middle Border Conference standings.
But the way the two teams have been winning made it easy for area coaches in the WIAA Division 2 seeding meeting held over the weekend.
New Richmond received the second seed in the WIAA Division 2 bracket, with Osceola getting the third seed. New Richmond will open WIAA tournament play next Tuesday, getting a visit from the Somerset boys. Somerset was seeded seventh in the regional bracket.
New Richmond was 11-1 in its last 12 games heading into the seeding meeting and the Tigers have been winning their games decisively. Osceola has barely held on for several of its conference wins, including a pair of overtime wins against Somerset last week.
The Tigers' last game before the seeding came last Thursday at Prescott, where the Tigers won 60-44. Prescott couldn't compare to New Richmond in depth or offensive patience in this game.
"The old formula of defense and good shot selection on offense got us through," said Tiger coach Rick Montreal.
The discipline showed by the Tigers on offense helped them to steadily build a lead through this game. The Tigers were able to establish their inside game early, with Michael Jansen and Derek Sabby combining for 10 points in the first quarter as the Tigers built a 17-10 lead.
The early lead allowed the Tiger coaches to give the reserves extensive playing time through much of the game.
"The bench basically sustained the lead and widened it going into halftime," said Montreal.
By halftime the Tigers led 28-17 and the lead was never threatened in the second half.
Ten Tigers scored in the game as the points were evenly distributed. Sabby led the team with 12 points and Riley Kannel came off the bench to score 10 points. Sabby led the team with 10 rebounds and Darren O'Flanagan took in seven rebounds.
The statistic that clearly pleased Montreal more than any other in this game was the Tigers' assists. The Tigers had 17 assists out of their 22 field goals and no player had more than three assists.
"That's how you get balanced scoring. You have kids making the extra pass," Montreal said. "We're consistently having more assists than turnovers, that's a big stat in high school basketball."
The Tiger coaches wanted a good test for the team to start the final week of the regular season. That's exactly what they got when River Falls visited on Monday in a non-conference game. The Wildcats maintained a slight lead throughout the game, beating the Tigers 55-49.
River Falls is now 15-4 this season and the Wildcats are a big, athletic and physical team. The Wildcats built up a lead by as many as 11 points, but the Tigers cut into that lead, getting within four points several times in the second half.
Sabby led the Tigers with 13 points and six rebounds in Monday's game. Jared Kidder contributed 11 points and five rebounds. Montreal said Kidder practiced hard the night before the game, then played just as hard as he practiced.
Peper had eight assists in the game. The Tigers totalled 14 assists, compared to seven turnovers in the game.
The timing of this game was important because River Falls is the caliber of team the Tigers could face as they advance through the WIAA playoffs.
The Tigers are 1-4 against Big Rivers Conference teams this season while going 12-1 against all other opponents.
Final MBC game
The Tigers complete their MBC schedule this Friday with a game at Amery. If the Tigers win, and if they won against Ellsworth on Tuesday, they will earn at least a share of the 2008-09 conference title.