After meltdown, New Richmond boys basketball makes big comebackThere were some pretty drastic extremes in the play of the New Richmond boys basketball team last week.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
There were some pretty drastic extremes in the play of the New Richmond boys basketball team last week.
The Tigers suffered a meltdown, in their play and their behavior, in a 53-42 non-conference loss at River Falls last Tuesday. On Thursday the Tigers trailed nearly the entire game against Somerset. In the final five minutes the Tigers made a spirited comeback, overtaking the Spartans for a 50-48 victory.
Thursday’s win keeps the Tigers in the Middle Border Conference lead. The Tigers started this week with a 9-2 MBC record, one game ahead of Baldwin-Woodville. The Blackhawks suffered a major setback last week, when leading scorer Ryan Benoy was lost for the season with a knee injury during a game against Amery.
Defense has been the foundation of the Tigers’ success this season, but that wasn’t the case for most of the night on Thursday.
“Somerset caused our defense fits all night,” said Tiger coach Rick Montreal. He said when the Tigers played a zone defense, they were giving up too many open looks on the perimeter. When New Richmond went man-to-man, Somerset was able to drive to the basket with relative ease.
With the game slipping away, the coaches decided their only option was to try a full-court trapping defense. The trap worked better than the coaches could have imagined. It slowed Somerset’s pace and the Tigers were able to force several late turnovers that they turned into points.
“Had we not changed to the trap, I’m not sure we could have come back,” Montreal said. “The trap gave us the possessions we needed.”
The Tigers trailed 46-39 before senior Dalton Sabby scored off a steal with 4:16 remaining. Senior Alec Knox hit two shots all night, but they came at critical times in the comeback. He scored with 2:47 left, then hit a three-pointer from the corner with 2:06 on the clock to tie the score at 46-46.
Junior Jake LaMirande, who was starting in place of Eli Kelley, made the biggest defensive play of the night. Somerset tried several times to get the ball to Gaelin Elmore in the low post, but LaMirande kept denying the pass. The Spartans finally forced a pass toward Elmore and LaMirande was able to tip the pass away for a steal. The Tigers hurried the ball upcourt and junior Joe Deppe buried a shot from the free throw line to put the Tigers in front.
After Deppe rebounded a Somerset miss, the Tigers held the ball until the closing seconds, when LaMirande hit a layup with 11 seconds left.
Sabby played another strong overall game for the Tigers, leading the team with 16 points, five rebounds and five steals. Knox contributed six assists and Andy Kittel finished with 12 points.
The win against Somerset helped the Tigers get beyond last Tuesday’s 52-43 loss at River Falls. The Tigers carried a 37-33 lead into the fourth quarter, before becoming unhinged by the vocal River Falls crowd. That led to some undisciplined play and behavior by Tiger players.
“We had a lot of tests in that game and we didn’t stand up to them,” Montreal said. “We’re apologetic and embarrassed about how we represented New Richmond.”
This was a physical game and the Tigers didn’t stand up well to the physical challenges. The Tigers didn’t shoot a single free throw, while River Falls went 8-8 from the line.
“They were more physical and physical teams get to the line,” Montreal said.
The Tigers struggled to stop River Falls leading scorer Brad Freeborn. He finished with 17 points, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 19-6.
Sabby paced the Tigers with 11 points and 11 rebounds at River Falls. Kelley produced seven rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
Two conference games remain as the Tigers attempt to win their fifth straight MBC title. They will play at Prescott on Friday, before closing the conference season with a home game against Osceola on Thursday, Feb. 23. In between, the Tigers play a non-conference game at Eau Claire North next Tuesday.