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Somerset boys basketball finds new scoring sources, wins 61-49

The worries about where this season's Somerset boys basketball season would find its scoring started almost as soon as the 2008-09 season ended.

The Spartans graduated their two leading scorers in Bryan Witzmann and David Moulton. There were few proven quantities returning.

That didn't seem to bother the Spartans in their season opener. They went to Unity and scored a 61-49 win over the Eagles.

And that scoring issue that everyone was so concerned over? The Spartans had three players score 13 or more points in the win.

Senior guard Rocky Larson led the Spartans with 15 points. Senior center Luke Buerkley contributed 13 points. The surprise was guard Danny Sheridan, who scored 14 points, including four three-pointers.

Second-year Spartan coach Brent Larson said he wasn't surprised by Sheridan's accuracy.

"He's a good shooter. For us to be successful, he'll need to hit some shots every game," Larson said.

A large part of the Spartans' success Thursday revolved around Larson and his ability to drive to the hoop.

"Rocky got into the paint on them. He had some nice kickouts," Larson said.

Those kickouts found several teammates spotted up for open three-point shots around the arc. That led to the Spartans knocking down nine of their 18 three-point attempts. Larson led the Spartans with five assists in the game.

"If you can knock down 33 percent or better from the three-point line, you're doing well," Coach Larson said. But he also warned that "we don't want to live and die by the threes. We want to get high percentage shots."

While offense was the question coming into the season for the Spartans, they know they can be an effective defensive team. That was shown last year and quickly reestablished at Unity. The Spartans forced Unity into 13 turnovers in the first half. That helped Somerset to build a 31-25 lead at halftime. A three-pointer at the halftime buzzer from Larson gave the team momentum heading into the break.

The Spartan defense was swarming in the third quarter. The defense forced several turnovers that were quickly turned into hoops and the lead mushroomed up to 17 points.

Ballhandling was a major problem for the Spartans last season. It became an issue only once on Thursday. During a stretch midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans got impatient and turned the ball over several times. Unity cut the lead to seven points before the Spartans regained control.

Unity had two tall post players, but the Spartans were able to neutralize them through the defensive efforts of Buerkley and Jordan Hansen. Buerkley played the entire game, shutting down Unity's leading scorer. Hansen was a tough defender against Unity's 6-5 center. Buerkley led the Spartans with nine rebounds.

The Spartans next game isn't until next Tuesday. That's when they begin Middle Border Conference play. They'll be facing Prescott in a game at 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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