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New Richmond girls basketball locks up second place in Middle Border Conference

New Richmond junior Alex Wheeler hit this shot in the second quarter of the Tigers' 45-34 win over Osceola on Friday.1 / 2
New Richmond senior Rylee Rasmussen fires a pass to the corner during the first quarter of Friday's win over Osceola.2 / 2

The Senior Night celebration for the New Richmond girls basketball team didn't have a great start, but it had a glorious finish.

The Tigers fell behind 8-0 in the opening minutes of Friday's game against Osceola. They trailed throughout the first half, facing a 25-20 deficit at halftime.

In the second half the Tigers turned up their defensive intensity, shutting the Osceola offense down cold. The Tigers finished with a 45-34 victory in their final Middle Border Conference game of the season.

The Tigers finished in second place in the MBC with an 11-3 record, a year after winning their first conference title in several decades. Baldwin-Woodville won the conference title with a 12-2 record.

The Tigers enter the WIAA Division 2 tournaments with a 14-8 overall record. The Tigers were scheduled to play their first tournament game on Tuesday at River Falls. The Tigers were the ninth seed in the sectional tournament bracket and River Falls received the eighth seed. The winner of Tuesday's game will play again this Friday. They will travel south to Onalaska, the top seed in the sectional bracket. Onalaska, the champion of the Mississippi Valley Conference, will carry a 19-3 record into Friday's game.

In Tuesday's game, the Tigers honored seniors Kaycie Anderson, Anne Frank and Rylee Rasmussen in a pre-game ceremony. The Tigers seemed to be caught up in the emotion of the celebration, because they let Osceola jump out to an 8-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game.

The Tigers regrouped, with juniors Mattie Kidder and Sydney Kannel leading the way. They each scored five points in the first quarter, but the Tigers still trailed 15-10 after eight minutes.

Throughout the first half the Tigers had difficulty dealing with the numerous screens used by Osceola in its patterned offense. The Tigers gained ground, tying the score at 18-18 on a hoop by Frank with 4:12 left in the quarter. Osceola then went on a 7-2 run to end the half, putting the Chieftains up 25-20 at halftime.

Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer made adjustments to the team's defense for the second half. The goal was to force the Chieftains to give up their dribble, which neutralized the effects of the screens. The move couldn't have worked better. The Chieftains were held to three points in the third quarter and six points in the fourth quarter. That gave the Tigers ample opportunity to pull ahead.

A balanced Tiger attack produced 25 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Hannah Simpson led the Tigers with 10 points, eight of them coming in the second half. Kanewischer said one of the key moves made by the team during the season was shifting Simpson to the high post. She has consistently been able to drive past defenders with her bold moves down the lane.