Tigers climb to 7-0, beat Rice Lake in battle of unbeaten teamsThe battle of unbeaten, state-ranked teams wasn’t nearly the skirmish everyone anticipated last Tuesday.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The battle of unbeaten, state-ranked teams wasn’t nearly the skirmish everyone anticipated last Tuesday.
The New Richmond and Rice Lake boys were bunched together in the WSN/WBCA Division 2 state rankings last week, with the Tigers ranked fifth and the Warriors ranked sixth. The Tigers took charge of Tuesday’s game early and kept it well under control the rest of the way, notching a 57-48 win. This makes the Tigers 7-0 as they complete the 2010 portion of their schedule. Rice Lake fell to 5-1.
The Tigers were rock solid through large portions of the game. The only time the Tigers showed any nervousness was at the end of both halves. Otherwise, this ranks as a gem of a performance.
Everyone knew the game would hinge on how well the Tigers did against Rice Lake standout Wally Ellenson. He scored 23 points, but had to work savagely and take a large quantity of shots to get his points.
“We went in thinking Wally would get his points,” said Tiger coach Rick Montreal. “The focus went to everyone else.”
The Tigers’ strong team defense stood out again, with the rest of the Rice Lake roster totalling 25 points.
Rice Lake is the tallest team the Tigers have faced this season, with two 6-6 players and Ellenson, who stands at 6-5. With the Tigers’ tallest starters measuring 6-2, there were concerns the height would cause a problem. It didn’t. The Tigers’ team rebounding approach allowed very few offensive rebounds to the Warriors. And whenever the Warriors tried to get the ball into a post player, the Tiger defense collapsed to the ball like bees to honey.
For the second straight game against a ranked opponent, the Tigers clicked on offense immediately. They scored 19 points in the first quarter against Baldwin-Woodville and they topped that with a 20-point first quarter against the Warriors.
The Tigers led 20-13 after a quarter and the lead was up to 30-16 midway through the second quarter. The Tigers have shown a tendency to make a few bad decisions late in halves. That cost them Tuesday, as Rice Lake finished the half with a 9-2 run that cut the lead to 33-26 at halftime.
If there were any fears Rice Lake would get back into the game, the Tigers quickly quashed them. They built the lead back to 42-28, with a three-pointer from Dalton Sabby completing that run.
Ellenson tried to carry the Warriors back in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points. The Warriors did make a threat, cutting the lead to 50-46 with 2:08 left. The Tigers then hit some key free throws, with Justice Harvieux and Cody Taubman each going 2-2, to safely finish off the game.
Riley Kannel led the Tigers with 18 points. Taubman scored 14 and Darren O’Flanagan scored 11. Harvieux, Sabby and Taubman each had five rebounds to lead the team. O’Flanagan had five assists, four steals and no turnovers. Kannel also had four steals and the team totalled 13 steals.
One of the popular coaching phrases of late is “basketball IQ” and Montreal said that is one area where his team separates itself from opponents.
“They recognize things pretty quickly. They make adjustments without my help,” he said.
The Tigers don’t play again until January. In the first week of January they will face their two Middle Border Conference co-leaders. They host Prescott on Jan. 4 and play at Ellsworth on Jan. 7. All three teams currently have 2-0 MBC records.