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Osceola knocks Spartan girls out of WIAA basketball playoffs

Somerset's Ashley Martell (left) tried to drive around Osceola's Paige Garriga in the Spartans' playoff loss.

The intensity of the rivalry between Somerset and Osceola was on full display when the two girls basketball teams met in the second round of WIAA Division 3 regional tournament play last Friday.

Osceola had beaten Unity in the opening round of regionals, while the Spartans received an opening bye. Osceola carried the momentum of its opening win into Friday's game, leading throughout the game to eliminate the Spartans 60-53.

Somerset finished the season with a 16-7 record. The Spartans were Middle Border Conference co-champions.

This was Osceola's second win over the Spartans in three meetings this season. In Somerset's win, they were able to control Osceola center Paige Garriga. In Osceola's wins, Garriga was an unfathomable force.

Garriga scored 18 points in Friday's game, but she may have been an even bigger factor on defense. The Spartans' offense is based on the ability to score off drives into the lane. Garriga swatted away Somerset's shots in the lane like King Kong swatting at airplanes. She nearly reached double digits in blocked shots, as Somerset's offense was completely choked off early in the game.

By the opening hoop of the second quarter Osceola's lead was already in double digits at 17-7. The Chieftains led 31-18 at halftime.

The Spartans kept clawing back, trying to get into the game. They cut the lead to three at 37-34 late in the third quarter on a three-pointer by Ashley Martell. Every time the Spartans made a charge, Osceola would answer.

"Osceola came ready to play and our girls played like deer in the headlights," said Somerset coach Kendrick Livers. "Their supporting cast showed up and ours didn't."

Junior Paige Wagner led the Spartans with 17 points. Martell finished with 11 points and junior Laura Wells contributed 10 points, including three three-pointers.

Martell and Karli Solum completed hugely successful high school basketball careers with this game. Livers said the conference championship will stand as the example of the leadership they provided for this team.

The coaches said that winning the conference title was a step in the legacy of success they want to build for the program.

"We've got nine girls returning and we'll try to build on that," Livers said. "This year we sent the message that we are getting better."

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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