In the first half of the season opener, the Somerset boys basketball team looked very much like the team that won four games in the 2016-17 season.
But in the second half, the Spartans showed the growth of a team that has worked hard throughout the offseason. Somerset trailed Mondovi 41-18 at halftime Nov. 21 in Somerset. The Spartans came back to outscore the Buffaloes 36-34 in the second half, resulting in a far more respectable 75-54 final score.
Third-year Somerset coach Taylor Germain said he felt the second half was more representative of the Spartans' abilities this season. He said last season the Spartans opened the season with two players owning varsity experience. This season, all but two players on the varsity roster have played at the varsity level.
Boosted by a large freshman class, the Spartans have 38 boys in the program, compared to 22 last year. There is just one returning senior, Bennett Baillargeon, who is in his third season on the varsity. So while the Spartans now have a solid base of varsity experience, they are still a young team. Junior Will Piletich is also in his third season as a varsity member.
In Tuesday's game, Mondovi started like a house afire, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. Mondovi's intensity at the start caught the Spartans off-guard and they missed their first eight shots. Mondovi never let up with the intensity, but the Spartans handled it with more poise in the second half.
Germain said the coaches don't need to reteach the basics of their offensive and defensive plans with such an experienced squad returning this season.
"It gives you more ability to do other things, the core things you believe in, the things you want to get good at," he said.
The Spartans were an excellent outside shooting team last season and that's a strength they'll build around this season. Against Mondovi, the Spartans sank 13 3-pointers. Sophomore Ty Madden, making his first varsity start, set a school record by hitting eight 3-pointers. He finished the game with 24 points. Baillargeon finished with 12 points and Piletich ended with nine points.
The Spartans will be back in action again Monday, Dec. 4, when they host Barron in a nonconference game.