MBC title battle: New Richmond boys dazzleNew Richmond’s boys basketball team needed its best performance of the season to retain the Middle Border Conference lead.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
New Richmond’s boys basketball team needed its best performance of the season to retain the Middle Border Conference lead.
That’s just what the Tigers produced.
New Richmond and Baldwin-Woodville went into Friday’s game at the NRHS gym tied at the top of the MBC standings with 7-2 records. Baldwin-Woodville hit a three-pointer for the opening points of the game, but it would be the only highlight for the Blackhawks. The Tigers thoroughly dominated the game, retaking the top spot in the MBC with a 60-40 victory.
This may have been the best defensive performance by any team in the MBC this season. The Tigers limited B-W’s high scoring guard tandem of Ryan Benoy and Tyler Heitmann to 10 points each, their lowest combined point total of the season. This was the first time the Blackhawks were held below 52 points all season.
The Tigers played a 2-3 zone defense for much of the game. The defense was designed to take away the three-point shooting arc for the Blackhawks. Tiger coach Rick Montreal said the idea was to force Blackhawks other than Benoy and Heitmann to take most of the B-W shots.
“To hold that team to 40 points, that’s one of the better defensive efforts I’ve seen in this program in my five-plus years,” Montreal said.
The Tigers were just as polished on offense in front of the large Parents Night crowd. Junior Joe Deppe was ill last week and didn’t practice until Thursday. The coaches were concerned that he wouldn’t have the stamina for the whole game, but Deppe scored a game-high 19 points off just 12 shots.
“I never thought Joe would come back and do what he did,” Montreal said. “They didn’t have a good matchup for Joe and he didn’t let his defender relax.”
Dalton Sabby and Eli Kelley also finished in double figures. Sabby finished with 16 points and Kelley scored 12 points. Kelley and Deppe shared the team lead with five rebounds and Jake LaMirande dished out five assists. The Tigers had seven steals in the game and committed eight turnovers.
The win Friday came after the Tigers had lost to Durand on Tuesday, dropping them into a tie with B-W and heaping even more importance on Friday’s game.
“They couldn’t have responded any better,” Montreal said, in reference to his players’ dealing with the pressure of Friday’s game. This game was also the 100th win in Montreal’s varsity coaching career.
Friday’s game had added meaning after the Tigers’ 55-47 loss to Durand last Tuesday. While the Tigers were at the top of their game on Friday, they never seemed to develop an edge in Tuesday’s loss.
Durand jumped ahead of the Tigers in the first quarter behind a sizzling opening from Jake Weber, who scored 11 of the Panthers’ 13 points in the first quarter.
The Tigers were able to limit Weber to 19 total points, mainly due to the defensive efforts of junior Joey Miller, but the rest of the Durand players kept hitting shots. There were several times in the second half when the Tigers charged back, but Durand would always answer that surge with a scoring run of its own.
The best scoring run of the second half for the Tigers came late in the third quarter. The Tigers reeled off 10 straight points to take a brief 36-33 lead. Durand then scored 13 of the next 15 points, putting the Tigers down 46-38.
The Tigers weren’t done. Sabby led the Tigers back. His free throws following an intentional foul call with 55 seconds left cut Durand’s lead to 50-47. Durand scored five points in the final 11 seconds to inflate the final margin to eight points.
One of the oddities of this game was the foul totals. Durand was called for just four fouls in a game where both teams were playing quite physically. The Tigers were whistled for 14 fouls in the game.
The Tigers were without Deppe on Tuesday, but Montreal said he felt Jake LaMirande filled in admirably in Deppe’s forward role. LaMirande, who is showing a knack for passing, had seven assists in the game.
Montreal said the Tigers didn’t have a great defensive night, but their worst area was rebounding. The Tigers managed just 19 rebounds in the game and only seven of them came at the defensive end. Durand was able to score on several putbacks in the game.
The tasks don’t get any easier for the Tigers as they try to maintain their MBC lead. They play at home on Thursday against Somerset. “I expect that will be a war,” Montreal said.
Next Tuesday the Tigers play at Amery, hoping to atone for one of their conference losses.