New Richmond girls basketball wins first conference championship since 1980The New Richmond girls basketball team completed one of the most incredible one-year turnarounds in Middle Border Conference history on Friday night.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The New Richmond girls basketball team completed one of the most incredible one-year turnarounds in Middle Border Conference history on Friday night.
With the Tigers’ 47-35 win at Osceola and Somerset’s 33-30 victory over Durand, the Tigers were able to win a share of the 2011-12 Middle Border Conference title. Durand plays at Osceola this Thursday. If Osceola could upset Durand, it would give the Tigers the outright MBC title.
The Tigers found out about Somerset’s victory moments after they had completed their own win. The team came pouring out of the locker room to celebrate with their fans at center court in the Osceola gym.
A late-season collapse by Durand left the opportunity open for the Tigers. Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer said the team hadn’t been focusing on the conference race, because Durand had a two-game lead two weeks ago. Then Durand hit the wall. After starting the MBC season 9-1, Durand’s loss at Somerset was the Panthers’ third straight setback in MBC action.
The Tigers took advantage of Durand’s collapse, winning MBC games against Prescott and Osceola last week. The Tigers have gone 5-1 in their past six games to lift their season record to 13-8.
“I don’t think there’s a more deserving team, the way they play together,” Kanewischer said of his conference champions. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Defense has been the constant in the Tigers’ success this season. In their final 10 MBC games, the Tigers allowed their opponent to score more than 35 points just once. After a 3-2 start in conference play, the Tigers went 7-2 in their final nine conference games.
With the knowledge that a conference title was still a possibility, the Tigers got out to a blistering start at Osceola on Friday. The Tigers led 20-6 at halftime and the lead mushroomed to 28-8 in the third quarter.
Osceola senior Madison Johnson then got hot. She scored 19 of her 21 points in the second half, helping the Chieftains to pull within six points. The Tigers were able to regain control and finish with the 47-35 win.
Sophomores Sydney Kannel and Mattie Kidder led the Tiger offense at Osceola. Kannel finished with 16 points and Kidder scored 10 points. Senior Amy Kukacka added nine points.
Kanewischer said the four seniors on the team (Kukacka, Kat Keller, Morgan Kelly and Alison Martin) are a key reason for the Tigers’ worst-to-first evolution this season. Last year, the Tigers ranked last in the Middle Border Conference with a 2-12 record. Kanewischer credited the seniors for having the leadership and desire to make changes begin to happen within the team this season.
The seniors received special recognition in the Tigers’ final regular season home game, their 35-29 win over Prescott last Tuesday. All four seniors were in the starting lineup after being recognized in a pre-game celebration.
Prescott stuck right with the Tigers until early in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers were able to create some breathing room. The defense created that breathing room by limiting the Cards to five points in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers led 15-14 at halftime, but Prescott took a 24-22 lead into the fourth quarter. That’s when the defense stepped up. So did Kannel, who forced Prescott out of its zone defense with her outside shooting. Kannel sank five three-pointers in the game, finishing with 16 points. Kidder scored 10 points and Keller finished with five points.
The Tigers now turn their focus to the WIAA Division 2 tournament series. The Tigers received the sixth seed, meaning they will play at home next Tuesday against Menomonie, the 11th seed. That game will begin at 7 p.m. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play the following Friday at Hayward, which is the second seed in the regional tournament bracket.
Tigers went undefeated in MBC in 1980
The last girls basketball conference title won in New Richmond came during the 1979-80 season when the Tigers went 14-0 to win the Middle Border Conference title.
New Richmond went on to defeat Superior 50-39 in the regional championship game, the second straight year the Tigers advanced to the sectional tournament.
New Richmond defeated Eau Claire North in the sectional semifinals, 46-44 in 1980, but lost to Stevens Point 66-45 in the sectional championship game. New Richmond finished the season with a 21-2 record.
The 1979-80 Tigers were coached by Janice Early. Team members included Jane Wickenhauser, Colleen Ball, Teresa Albert, Beth Anderson, Kris Heffron, Tracy Singerhouse, Joy Murray, Linda Hendrickson, Eileen McNamara, Mary Drill, Sue King and Micki Casey.
There is one direct tie between the 1979-80 Tiger team and this year’s conference championship team. Beth Anderson (Kelly), a junior on the 1979-80 team, has two daughters playing on this year’s MBC champions, Morgan and Maddie Kelly.