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New Richmond boys basketball withstands challenge from Ellsworth

Five of the seven wins by the New Richmond boys basketball team in their 7-1 start in the Middle Border Conference have been by single-digit margins.

The closest call in terms of scoring difference came last Friday, when the Tigers were able to hold off a relentless Ellsworth team, 48-46. The win kept the Tigers alone at the top of the Middle Border Conference standings.

The game was tied 46-46 when the Tigers got the ball with 30 seconds remaining. Tiger coach Rick Montreal elected not to call a timeout, letting his players handle the situation and not letting Ellsworth prepare its defense for the situation. The Tigers began running a play with 12 seconds left. Ellsworth took away the Tigers' first option. So Dalton Sabby fired a pass to Andy Kittel in the deep corner. Kittel pump-faked his defender into the air, took one dribble and got his shot away. His shot swished through the net as the buzzer sounded. It was the first game-winning shot of Kittel's career.

The win raises the Tigers' overall record to 10-4 this season. Junior Joe Deppe led the Tigers with 15 points. The Tigers were able to get good movement against Ellsworth's zone defense. Deppe was able to find seams in the defense and the Tiger perimeter players were able to get him the ball on a consistent basis.

Senior guard Alec Knox put together another strong floor game. He finished with 11 points and four assists. His cuts into the lane kept the Ellsworth defense moving, creating open passing lanes.

Tiger coach Rick Montreal said senior guard Ryan Keehr came off the bench to give the Tigers important minutes in the second half. Keehr entered the game in the middle of the third quarter and played nearly the rest of the game. He had three assists, a steal and his quickness was an asset against a team with good perimeter shooters like Ellsworth.

"This was by far the best game of his career at any level," Montreal said.

The strong play by the guards was reflected in the fact that the Tigers had just nine turnovers in the game.

Montreal said this was not one of the Tigers' best rebounding games.

"We didn't have a real tough mindset in that aspect," he said.

Ellsworth was able to stay in the game largely because of the shooting of Lemoine Steffen. Steffen scored 17 points, including three three-pointers in the second half.

The Tigers started the week with a one-game lead over Baldwin-Woodville in the MBC standings. Those two teams will clash this Friday in the NRHS gym. The Tigers were able to win a wild 63-60 game when the two teams met in Baldwin in December. The Tigers will also be in action next Tuesday, playing a non-conference game at River Falls.

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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