Tigers left looking up at River Falls
If New Richmond's school colors included blue, this year's Tiger girls basketball team could be called "The Smurfs."
Other nicknames like "Mighty Mites" etc., might also work. The point is, the Tiger girls will likely be the smallest team on the court in every game they play this season.
The Tigers opened the season last Tuesday with a game at River Falls. The Tigers trailed 23-21 at halftime. River Falls was able to build the lead to 10 points in the third quarter and that's where it stayed, with the Wildcats scoring a 47-37 win over the Tigers.
New Richmond coach Eric Russell knew at the end of last season that the Tigers would not have much height coming back this season. The one hope was junior Bridgette Spinks, who is well over six feet tall. But over the summer Spinks moved to Utah.
So when the Tigers went against River Falls, they faced a starting center more than six feet tall. The assignment of guarding opposing post players has been taken on by junior Hannah Zimmerman, who stands 5-7.
"Hannah has taken on that challenge," Russell said. "She will step up and do it."
As you can guess, the height differential showed up most in the rebound column. River Falls was able to out-rebound the Tigers 56-29.
Russell said the Tigers understand that they will have to execute all of the rebounding fundamentals in trying to offset their lack of height.
"It is one of the better boxing out groups I've had. There were times all five girls boxed out and the ball hit the floor and then we got the rebound," Russell said.
The Tigers were led in rebounding by Ashley O'Flanagan with seven. River Falls center Kelsie Flanscha led the Wildcats with 16 rebounds.
Russell said junior Krista Mitchell has also stepped up this season, taking the role of the floor leader for the team.
The Tigers only have two seniors on this year's roster. Hannah Demulling and Ashley Gibson are the seniors. Gibson sprained an ankle in the first night of practices this season. While she is still coming back from the injury, she did lead the Tigers by scoring 11 points on Tuesday, including sinking two-three pointers in the first quarter.
The way to offset the lack of height, according to the Tigers' plans, is to use their team quickness as a weapon.
"We're trying to press and run," Russell said. "Hopefully our defense can create a lot of offense."
The Tigers face a difficult assignment this Friday in their Middle Border Conference opener. The Tigers will be playing at Osceola. The Chieftains are defending MBC champions and returning much of their team, including conference MVP Ashlea Muckenhirn.
River Falls 47, New Richmond 37
NEW RICHMOND (37)
Demulling 2 1-1 5, Zimmerman 2 0-0 4, Mitchell 3 2-2 9, O'Flanagan 0 2-5 2, Abramson 0 2-4 2, Rehurek 1 2-2 4, Gibson 3 3-4 11, Stoffel 0 0-0 . Totals 11 12-19 37.
RIVER FALLS (47)
Hamilton 2 4-6 9, Reihl 2 2-2 6, Obermueller 0 0-0 0, Herum 2 0-1 5, Overbye 3 0-0 7, Freeborn 0 0-0 0, Grant 0 0-0 0, Schwalbach 3 0-2 6, Flanscha 4 1-3 9, Brendum 2 1-2 5. Totals 18 8-16 47.
New Richmond 13 8 8 8 37
River Falls 16 7 18 6 47
Three-point goals -- Mitchell, Gibson 2, Hamilton, Herum, Overby. Fouled out -- Rehurek. Total fouls -- New Richmond 15, River Falls 22.