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Illness hits Tiger girls basketball as they try to break losing streak

Kat Keller is shown leading the Tigers' fullcourt pressure against Rice Lake last week.

Just when it appeared the New Richmond girls basketball team was ready to break out of its losing streak, illness struck the team.

On Thursday the Tigers played at Baldwin-Woodville, an opponent New Richmond had beaten in the first round of Middle Border Conference play. Unfortunately, a wave of illness swept through the Tigers last week. One-third of the varsity and JV players missed the practice last Wednesday because they were sick. The Tigers were not at their sharpest on Thursday, falling to the Blackhawks 46-20 for the team's ninth straight setback.

The Tigers appeared to be finding their offensive touch when they played Rice Lake last Tuesday. The Tigers scored 36 points, their highest total in several weeks, in the 58-36 non-conference loss to the Warriors.

The offense for the Tigers was a clear upgrade against Rice Lake. Junior Kat Keller played sharply at both ends of the court, scoring a season-high 14 points. She's known for using her quickness on defense. On offense she was able to drive past defenders, either scoring off the drives or drawing fouls.

Freshman guard Sydney Kannel also continued her offensive progress. She scored eight points against Rice Lake.

This was a game where both teams were using their quickness successfully. Rice Lake has excellent quickness and the Warrior coaches used an offense that isolated their players to one-on-one drive attempts to the basket.

Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer was encouraged that the team has kept playing hard during the string of losses.

"We're scrappy. They still fight for four quarters," Kanewischer said.

One of the players who has led by example is junior Morgan Kelly. She was recently named the team's third captain, joining seniors Meghan Frank and Laura Troftgruben in that role.

"She has all the intangibles," Kanewischer said. "Her effort, her talking, she does that in every practice."

Illness was already creeping in early last week and it peaked Wednesday, when six of the 18 players had to miss practice. The timing was unfortunate for the Tigers. Baldwin-Woodville has been improving steadily during the season and Thursday's win gave the Blackhawks an 8-8 overall record. With the loss the Tigers are now 3-13 overall, with a 2-7 conference record.

The difference in the game for the Tigers was missed close-range shots. The Tigers trailed 13-4 after the first quarter. The Tigers missed four layups in the first quarter and the offense never recovered. B-W was running a trapping defense and the Tigers kept making the same mistakes against the trap.

"Taking care of the ball didn't seem like a priority," Kanewischer said.

Frank and Amy Kukacka led the Tigers with four points each in the loss.

The Tigers return to action this Friday with a home game against Ellsworth. The Tigers will be on the road next Tuesday, playing at Amery.

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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