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New Richmond boys basketball won't get home playoff game

Tiger senior Taner Hoppe fires a pass to the wing during a recent New Richmond boys game.

For the first time in several years, the New Richmond boys basketball team won't get a home WIAA tournament game.

The Tigers dropped to ninth in the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament bracket during the seeding meeting that was held on Sunday. That means the Tigers will open the WIAA playoffs on the road next Tuesday, Feb. 19, playing at Menomonie. The Mustangs are the eighth seed in the sectional tournament bracket. The winner of the New Richmond-Menomonie game will have to face Onalaska, the top-seeded team in the bracket, in the tournament's second round on Friday, Feb. 22.

Coach Rick Montreal said he went into the seeding meeting hoping to get the seventh or eighth seed, which would have earned the Tigers a home game in the opening round. While the Tigers had more wins than Menomonie or La Crosse Logan, region coaches voted to put those teams ahead of the Tigers because of the Tigers' lack of success against Division 2 teams.

"Nine wins in our league didn't carry a lot of punch," Montreal said.

The Tigers lost twice to Division 2 teams last week, to Menomonie on Tuesday and to River Falls on Friday. In between, they won their only Middle Border Conference game of the week, topping Amery 54-43 on Thursday.

The two non-conference losses mirrored the troubles the Tigers have had all season against bigger schools. The Tigers can't stop higher-level teams from scoring lofty point totals. Menomonie beat the Tigers 61-46 on Tuesday and River Falls ran past the Tigers 75-45 on Friday. In both games, the Tigers gave up big point totals in the first quarter and spent the rest of the night playing catch-up.

Menomonie isn't a prolific offensive team, but the Mustangs built a 20-12 lead in the first quarter. The margin ballooned to 36-23 by halftime.

"We're not good at playing from behind because we don't get consecutive stops (on defense)," Montreal said. "Menomonie was just more aggressive, They attacked the rim well."

Joe Deppe led the Tigers with 17 points against Menomonie. Jake LaMirande finished with 10 points and nine rebounds and Noah Berger contributed six points.

Amery is an opponent the Tigers match up well against. Amery is a post-oriented team without much perimeter quickness and the Tigers were able to keep Amery's attack contained for much of the night. Amery could score just four points in the first quarter and seven in the second quarter, as the Tigers pulled ahead 24-11 by halftime.

The Tigers had to withstand an Amery charge in the third quarter. Amery scored 18 points in the third, to cut sharply into New Richmond's lead. LaMirande knocked down a three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer to build the Tigers' lead to 35-29. The Tigers were able to maintain a safe bubble for most of the fourth quarter.

Deppe scored 23 to lead the Tigers against Amery. LaMirande put together one of the most impressive stat lines of the season for the Tigers on Thursday, falling two assists short of a triple-double. He scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out eight assists.

The Tigers lost starting guard Isaiah Hobbs to a rolled ankle during Thursday's game. Taking another guard out of the mix only slowed the Tigers' defense further. River Falls was a vastly quicker team Friday, scoring 22 points in the first quarter and building a 38-23 halftime lead over the Tigers.

River Falls abused the Tigers' defense, with quick passing and quicker players. Montreal said the team has got to come up with better ways to execute on defense.

"We're not going to stop looking for answers. I want (defense) to matter," Montreal said.

The Tigers will complete their regular season schedule this Friday when they play at home against Osceola.