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Tigers take share of MBC lead by stinging Osceola

When Osceola beat New Richmond's boys basketball team in the first game of the season, it taught the Tigers that they needed to make improvements in their perimeter defense.

So when Osceola and New Richmond met on Friday, with the Middle Border Conference lead up for grabs, the Tigers showed how much their defense has improved. The Tigers defense had a wondrous night, especially in the middle two quarters, as the Tigers stung Osceola 61-48. The two teams are now tied at the top of the Middle Border Conference standings with 7-1 records.

When Osceola beat the Tigers in overtime in the opening game of the season, Osceola used the quickness of its guards as a significant advantage. In Friday's game, the Tiger guards were given the assignment of defending Osceola's guards straight up. Tiger coach Rick Montreal said by not sagging in to offer help, there were no Chieftains left uncovered for open three-point shots when the Tigers helped out.

Osceola was able to hold a 14-13 lead after a quarter, but gradually the Tiger defense took hold. The Chieftains could only score six points in the second quarter and three points in the third quarter. By the end of the third quarter, the Tigers were in complete control, 41-23.

Montreal said the Tigers felt they had an advantage in post play in this game and they looked to exploit it. That was a big factor in the Tigers' success. Derek Sabby scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Michael Jansen added 11 points.

The Tiger guards also got into the scoring act, led by Lance Bauer with 13 points and Riley Kannel with 11 points.

A key component to the Tigers' win was the play of guard John Peper. He finished with eight assists, mostly from passes into the post players.

"John's wearing a lot of hats for us," Montreal said. "He's our vocal leader, our off the ball stopper and now he's turned into our ball distributor."

Last Tuesday the Tigers extended their conference winning streak to six games with a 60-45 win over Prescott. Prescott was able to stay close through the first half, with the Tigers leading 29-21 at the break. The Tigers broke the game open in the third quarter behind Bauer's hot shooting. He scored nine of his 12 points in the third quarter.

Bauer was joined in double figures by Sabby with 11 points and Jansen with 10 points.

Tiger sophomore Darren O'Flanagan was given the responsibility of guarding Prescott's leading scorer, Tim Harris.

"Darren gave him fits," Montreal said, as Harris was held to two points in the first half.

The Tigers' six-game win streak came to an abrupt end when Eau Claire North's boys visited on Saturday afternoon. With North's incredible height and the Tigers having beaten Osceola the night before, the Tigers couldn't muster much offense in a 48-28 loss to the Huskies.

"The length of their 1-3-1 zone didn't allow us to see. They're so danged big," Montreal said. "We just got thumped."

Montreal said this game may have served a good purpose for the Tigers. The next time they could possibly face a team with this type of height is if the Tigers could reach the regional final to face undefeated Northwestern.

Sabby led the Tigers with eight points against Eau Claire North.

The Tigers return to action this Thursday with a game at Durand. That will be followed by a home game next Tuesday against Somerset.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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