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Somerset boys basketball delivers Durand's first loss, ties for MBC lead

Somerset senior Matt Skoglund (12) gets a shot away between two Osceola defenders during last Friday's victory.

The rivalry between Somerset and Durand was at center stage last Tuesday when the two boys basketball teams battled in Durand, with the Middle Border Conference lead on the line.

The Spartans needed to man up and that's just what they did. They played a hard-nosed, physical style that got them the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Despite Durand's best pressure, the Spartans didn't let go of the lead, winning 60-55. This creates a tie at the top of the MBC standings, with both teams starting this week with one conference loss.

There was some question how the Spartans would play at Durand, because they had lost their two previous games to Amery and Barron. Spartan coach Brent Larson felt his team didn't play up to its standards in those losses, but the team regained its focus to face Durand.

"They really competed, they played with good energy," Larson said.

An excellent start from senior guard Tyler Ledbeter helped the Spartans gain confidence. He scored eight points in the first quarter as the Spartans built a 19-15 lead.

Durand started the second quarter on an 8-0 run and the Panthers maintained a lead throughout the quarter, holding a 28-25 advantage at halftime.

Foul trouble became a concern for both teams in this rugged game. Ledbeter and Jack Emmert, the Spartans' starting guards, both drew three fouls in the first half. The team's depth got them through, with Matt Skoglund, Zac Waalen and Luke Praschak taking up extra guard minutes. The Spartans are also helped that post player Gaelin Elmore can bring the ball upcourt against most team's full-court pressure.

The third quarter was an even battle. The Spartans took a 39-37 lead at the end of the third quarter when Emmert nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer. He'd also sunk a shot at the buzzer ending the first quarter.

The Spartans kept the lead through the fourth quarter, but Durand never let them pull away. The Spartans went up 54-47, but two three-pointers cut the Spartan lead to one point with 20 seconds remaining. Elmore went 4-4 from the line in those final seconds and Emmert sank two free throws with :01 on the clock to ice the game.

Free throw shooting was a key ingredient in the Spartans' win. The Spartans went 21-25 from the line. That was led by Elmore, who was 12-13 from the line, helping him to score a game-high 22 points.

Ledbeter finished with 15 points, including making 6-7 shots from the field. He also led the team with five assists.

Reggie Larson's nine rebounds led the Spartans.

"I thought this was Reggie's best game this year, with his rebounding and defense," Coach Larson said.

Coach Larson said he thought this was the best the Spartans have been all season at being patient on offense, and reversing the ball to create the open shot.

Beating Osceola

It took the Spartans a half to really get going in their game against Osceola on Friday. In the third quarter, the Spartans decisively put the game away.

Somerset held a 27-21 lead over the Chieftains at halftime. The Spartans picked up the pace in the third quarter, using several transition hoops and three-pointers to break the game open. Somerset outscored Osceola 21-4 in the third quarter, making for an easy 55-38 finish.

Coach Larson said he felt the Spartans' full-court pressure was the key to the third quarter explosion. The Spartans had pressed in the first half, but it didn't have a major impact until the third quarter.

"With our press, we're hoping to fatigue people," he said.

Osceola was able to score in transition against the Spartan press in the first half, but that changed suddenly in the second half.

Emmert scored seven points and Skoglund six points to lead the Spartans during the third quarter. Emmert and Elmore finished the night with 16 points apiece to lead the Spartans. Elmore led the team with eight rebounds and Larson contributed seven rebounds. Emmert led the Spartans with five assists and four steals.

The Spartans start the second half of the MBC schedule this week, facing some critical games right away. The Spartans will host Baldwin-Woodville this Thursday, before playing at Prescott next Tuesday.

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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