Tigers earn share of Middle Border Conference boys basketball titleTalk about a turn of events.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Talk about a turn of events.
The New Richmond boys basketball team entered last week with a one-game lead in the Middle Border Conference. By the end of the week, the Tigers had locked up a share of their fourth straight MBC championship.
How did it all come about? The Tiger boys took care of business on their end. The offensive production picked up and the Tigers were able to score wins over Prescott and Ellsworth. The Tigers beat Prescott 70-56, before topping Ellsworth 58-46.
Baldwin-Woodville, which began last week one game behind the Tigers, did not take care of business. The Blackhawks were upset by Durand 49-43 last Tuesday. On Friday the Blackhawks lost on their home court to Prescott, 52-47.
This leaves the Tigers with a three-game lead in the conference with three rounds yet to be played.
The Tigers began last week still a bit shaken from their first loss of the season, to Baldwin-Woodville. Prescott could have pulled within a game of the Tigers with a win last Tuesday, so the Tigers were fully aware of the seriousness of the game.
Prescott was fully aware too. The Cards came out firing, led by guard Billy Brookshaw. He scored 12 points in the first quarter as the Cards took a 17-14 lead.
“We struggled to contain them, in the first quarter especially,” said Tiger coach Rick Montreal.
Brookshaw was held to five points the rest of the game. Why? Because Montreal had senior Darren O’Flanagan guard him the rest of the night.
“Every shot (Brookshaw) took the rest of the night, Darren contested,” Montreal said.
The second quarter was an even battle, with the Tigers holding a 33-32 lead at the break.
The Tiger defense really got down to business in the second half. The Tigers outscored the Cards 18-8 in the third quarter and they led comfortably for the rest of the game. John Hansen gave the Tigers an offensive lift in the third quarter, scoring seven straight points.
Montreal said part of the Tigers’ issues on defense in both games last week was opponents taking advantage of the team’s help defense. He said the Tigers are so willing to help out teammates on defense that opponents were waiting for the helping Tiger to leave their man. Then they’d dump the ball to the freed up player for an open shot.
Riley Kannel led the Tigers with 18 points and eight rebounds at Prescott. Cody Taubman scored 15 points and O’Flanagan scored 14. O’Flanagan had seven of the team’s 19 steals in the game and Justice Harvieux contributed six assists.
Friday’s game was similar to Tuesday’s. The Tigers were facing an opponent whose offense was based largely on attacking off the dribble. It took about a third of the game before the Tiger defense was able to take control.
Ellsworth was able to score off the drive several times in the first quarter, which led to the score being tied 18-18 at the end of the quarter. The Tigers had decided to focus their defensive attention on two of Ellsworth’s leading scorers, Chris Niedfeldt and Riley O’Neil. That part of the plan worked, because those two players were held to two points each. But Travis Kroll and Jimmy Miska stepped up to combine for 32 points to keep the Panthers relevant in the game.
The Tigers weren’t sure O’Flanagan would play in Friday’s game after he rolled an ankle in practice the night before. The coaches didn’t have him suit up until 30 minutes before the game.
“I wasn’t sure he’d play until game time,” Montreal said.
O’Flanagan didn’t let the bad ankle bother him. He scored 16 points and played his usual tenacious defense.
Kannel led the Tigers in scoring, as he’s done in every game this season, finishing with 18 points. Harvieux played a complete floor game, producing nine pints, seven assists and five rebounds. Hansen came off the bench to get four steals.
The Tigers can clinch the outright Middle Border Conference championship this Thursday, when they play at home against Amery. The Tigers will also play at home on Saturday, facing Eau Claire North in a non-conference game that starts at 3 p.m. The Tigers will be on the road next Tuesday, playing at Osceola.
The WIAA boys basketball regional seeding meetings are scheduled for this weekend. The Tigers are the leading contender to get the top seed, though this Tuesday’s game with River Falls will have a bearing on the decision. The boys basketball tournaments start on Tuesday, March 1.