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Somerset boys basketball gets early edge against MBC's top contenders

Somerset senior Matt Skoglund tries to drive around a Prescott player during Friday's action.

The Middle Border boys basketball conference is packed with teams that view themselves as contenders for the 2012-13 title.

Somerset faced two of those contenders in their first MBC games last week. The Spartans were able to come out victorious in both of those skirmishes.

The Spartans went to Baldwin-Woodville last Tuesday for their first MBC game of the season. B-W is a tough locale for any opponent, but the Spartans were able to pull out a 55-51 win over the Blackhawks.

On Friday the Spartans hosted Prescott, another of the teams with talent to contend for the title. Prescott led throughout the first half, but Somerset made defensive adjustments for the second half that swung the game in the Spartans' favor. Somerset finished with a 48-38 win.

The Spartans face another of the top MBC threats this Thursday when they play at New Richmond. New Richmond is the five-time defending MBC champion. A Somerset win would give the Spartans a three-game lead over the Tigers in the MBC standings.

It's been quite some time since Somerset has won in Baldwin, which made last Tuesday's win an accomplishment. Somerset was able to get the early edge on the Blackhawks, but the game stayed close until the final seconds.

Spartan coach Brent Larson said his team had a difficult time finding an offensive flow at Baldwin, but the team's rebounding and defense were the driving forces behind the win. The Spartans were able to haul down 28 rebounds in the game, including 15 from junior Gaelin Elmore. Elmore also stood out at the offensive end for the Spartans, finishing with 24 points. Elmore closed out the win with a pair of free throws in the final seconds that made it a two-possession margin.

Elmore creates a match-up problem for opponents. He's got the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but he also has the strength to be a prolific scorer from in the paint.

When facing B-W, defending fiery guard Logan Weyer is always a top priority. Larson said the Spartans were able to defend Weyer well, letting Tyler Ledbeter and Matt Skoglund take turns stopping him.

Ledbeter and Skoglund were the leading edge of a defense that forced B-W into turnovers in 27 percent of its possessions. The Spartans were much more careful with the ball, turning it over on 16 percent of their possessions.

In Friday's win over Prescott, the Spartans appeared to be in trouble, trailing throughout the first half. The Spartans were able to get the margin down to four points by halftime, 23-19.

Prescott was having success with quick ball movement that produced open shots on the back side of the Spartan defense. Prescott also caught the Spartans by surprise by playing a 2-3 zone defense the entire game. The Cards had never shown a zone defense in recent years against the Spartans.

"It took us a half to get accustomed to it," Larson said of Prescott's defensive choice. "We've still got a ways to go in our zone attack."

Fortunately for the Spartans, they have the perimeter shooters to burn teams that sit in a zone defense. Elmore and Jack Emmert both hit several big shots from the perimeter as the Spartans took the lead in the third quarter.

Emmert led the Spartans by scoring 17 points on Friday. Elmore and Ledbeter both scored 13 points.