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Double dose of Osceola and overtime

Cole Cloutier (11), shown in Monday's game against Amery, scored a career-high 17 points against Osceola last week.

It was a double dose of Osceola and a double dose of overtime for the Somerset boys basketball team last week.

Due to postponements and other alterations to the schedule, the Spartans and Chieftains ended up meeting twice last week. While Osceola is tied for the lead in the Middle Border Conference and Somerset is tied at the bottom of the MBC standings, these were two extremely tight ballgames. So tight in fact, that both games went to overtime. In Friday's game, Osceola put on a big offensive rush in the overtime to win 55-46.

In the first of the two meetings with Osceola, the Spartans lost in overtime to the Chieftains, 67-66, last Tuesday.

In Friday's game the Spartans had chances to break the game open early. The Spartans played an aggressive first quarter, leading 15-11 at the break. The Spartans' offense then went cold, with Osceola coming back to lead 21-19 at halftime.

The second half was a seesaw battle. The Spartans had several chances to put the game away in the final 90 seconds. They missed the front end of two bonus free throw situations. They then held the ball for the final shot of regulation, which glanced off the front of the rim.

The Spartans missed their first three shots of the overtime. By that time Osceola had already built a seven-point lead and the outcome was set.

"Gosh it's frustrating," Spartan coach Brent Larson said of the third straight overtime loss. "We've just got to find ways to win those."

That the Spartans were able to compete Friday was amazing, considering their outside shooting. The Spartans made one of 25 attempts from three-point range.

"That's got to be a record for futility," Larson said.

Center Bryan Witzmann led the team with 17 points and 15 rebounds in the game. Luke Buerkley produced 11 points, five steals, four assists and six rebounds in another well-rounded effort.

Another overtime

The first of the two battles with Osceola came last Tuesday on the Chieftains' home court.

The fact this game went to overtime wasn't a shock for either team. Somerset was coming off a triple overtime game with Ellsworth. This was Osceola's fourth straight win, and two of them came in overtime.

Both teams had their chances to take control of the game, in regulation and in overtime. Somerset's David Moulton hit a three-pointer with 1:20 remaining in the game to put the Spartans ahead 50-49. Osceola then went ahead by two, before Moulton scored again to tie the game 52-52. Osceola then went ahead again by three points, but the Spartans came back again. Osceola held a two-point lead, with the Spartans calling a timeout with 14 seconds left.

The play designed by Coach Larson was closed off by the Osceola defense. Rocky Larson was able to find Luke Buerkley, who'd gotten free under the Chieftain basket, and Buerkley's layup tied the game with two seconds left.

In the overtime Somerset got out to a four-point lead, but Osceola's excellent perimeter shooting led the Chieftains back. Osceola led by three in the final seconds. Larson scored to cut the final margin to one, but the Spartans couldn't get the ball back in the final seconds.

Somerset had four players score in double figures in the game. The revelation was senior guard Cole Cloutier, who scored a career-high 17 points. Cloutier hit eight of his 10 shots in the game.

"He had probably his best game," Coach Larson said. "He played a great game defensively too, he made (Tyler) Pauley's baskets difficult to get."

Joining Cloutier in double figures were Bryan Witzmann with 13 points, Larson with 11 points and Moulton with 10 points. Witzmann led the team with 14 rebounds and Buerkley added eight rebounds. Larson led the team with five assists.

Loss to Amery

The string of overtime games ended for the Spartans on Monday, but not the string of losses. The Spartans lost to Amery 71-62 on Monday night.

Amery used excellent ball movement to create open shot after open shot against the Spartan defense in Monday's game. And when the Warriors got open looks, they hit the shots.

Somerset's offense, just as it has been in the past several games, was based around center Bryan Witzmann. Witzmann scored a career-high 33 points.

"It was our best job all year of getting the ball into him," Larson said.

Luke Buerkley scored 10 points. Both Buerkley and Witzmann reached double figures in rebounds.

The Spartans trailed 20-17 after one quarter. Amery pulled away in the second quarter. The Warriors hit a three-pointer at the end of the second quarter that raised their lead to 10 points.

Seventh seed

The Spartans drew the seventh seed in the WIAA Division 2 regional bracket. That means, instead of making long trips to Ashland, Northwestern or Hayward, the Spartans will cruise over to New Richmond for the opening round of regional play next Tuesday. The regional game at NRHS starts at 7 p.m.

"It's a rivalry game, the drive will be there," Larson said. "Our kids get up for playing (New Richmond)."

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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