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Defense makes the difference for Tiger boys basketball

Tiger guard Darren O'Flanagan (20) drives along the baseline during the game against Hudson.

Look at the foul column if you want to find the main difference between the New Richmond and Hudson boys basketball teams in last Friday's non-conference game.

Hudson was called for 28 fouls in Friday's game, while New Richmond was called for 11. The difference in defensive style and effectiveness led the Tigers to a 56-42 win over the Raiders. This is the first win of the season for the Tigers after a loss to Eau Claire North three nights earlier. Hudson was the Big Rivers Conference champion a year ago, while North was the Division 1 state tournament entry from this sectional.

The difference in the defense wasn't hard to see in Friday's game. The Tigers were moving their feet and anticipating plays, constantly frustrating Hudson's offense. The Hudson players were largely playing defense with their hands and weren't hiding it from the officials.

The Tigers have built a reputation for playing stingy defense. Coach Rick Montreal said the team had set a goal of keeping every opponent under 50 points. After watching the first two games, the team is changing its goal. They now are aiming to keep every opponent under 40 points.

"We try to give the kids techniques they can use to pressure the ball," Montreal said. "They use their legs and waist a lot more on defense than using their upper body."

It seems that each year one player elevates their defensive play to become the team's top defender, who is assigned to guard the leading scorer from the opposing team. Junior Justice Harvieux has quickly taken that role.

"Justice is a bona fide stopper," Montreal said. "What he did against (Hudson's Andrew) Vitek was incredible. Justice uses his intelligence from the classroom and brings it to the court."

Another player who stood out on defense was senior forward Jared Kidder. He provided smart help defense, stepping in to block three shots. He also led the team with six rebounds.

The defense is ahead of the offense at this point of the season for the Tigers. Montreal said the offense improved over its play in the opener against Eau Claire North. The Tigers were able to hit five three-pointers, making more than 40 percent of their tries.

The offensive output was balanced, led by Harvieux and Darren O'Flanagan, who each scored 11 points. Kidder scored nine points and Michael Jansen scored eight points.

The offense played well enough to build the lead up to 20 points in the third quarter. The Tigers got a bit careless with the ball in the fourth quarter and Hudson was able to knock the final margin down to 14 points.

Too many turnovers

The Tigers started their 2009-10 season with a tough assignment, playing at Eau Claire North last Tuesday. The Huskies are led by 6-foot, 11-inch Evan Anderson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison recruit.

Anderson was a problem for the Tigers, but so were their own turnovers in a 48-37 loss to the Huskies.

Coach Montreal said the Tigers gave a respectable effort on defense and rebounding. Much of the North offense was run through Anderson. Montreal said Tiger center Michael Jansen played strongly against Anderson.

"We had good energy on defense and created some turnovers," Montreal said.

While the defensive effort was a positive, the offensive effort lacked a shooting edge. The Tigers were able to get open looks, but they couldn't knock the shots down. The Tiger coaches talked to the players about not letting Anderson's long reach cause them to alter their shots.

"You can't simulate 6-11. His size does change the game at the defensive end."

Darren O'Flanagan was one of the few Tigers who had a positive offensive game. He led the team with 10 points and five rebounds. Dalton Sabby, in his first varsity game, led the team with three assists.


The Tigers are in the midst of an 11-day gap between games. They don't play again until next Tuesday. That's when they open Middle Border Conference action, with a game at Durand.

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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