Shockwaves were sent through the Middle Border Conference by the New Richmond boys basketball team Thursday, Dec. 7.
There was an assumption that the Tigers would be a rebuilding team this year. But when the Tigers outgunned Osceola 83-51 on Thursday, it sent the message that the Tigers are much further along in the rebuilding process than opponents might have thought.
The Tigers were sharp in every aspect of the game in knocking off a veteran Osceola team last Thursday. The Tigers' success started with defense. The Tigers never allowed Osceola to get comfortable on offense. Osceola's guards were harassed and the Tiger interior players took away passing lanes.
"We set a tone early that it was going to be a battle, that we were going to try to put a competitive game together," said Tiger coach Rick Montreal.
In the Tigers' previous two games, they played quite well in each second half, but couldn't overcome lackluster first halves. The Tigers were just as aggressive on offense as they were on defense. By driving hard to the rim, the Tigers forced Osceola's defense to be on the move. That created clear passing lanes and open looks.
"We played confidently and hit shots all night. You could see our confidence grow," Montreal said.
The shooting confidence started with guards Talon Seckora and Ryan Kling. Seckora finished with 21 points and Kling with 19 points, as they each connected on five three-pointers.
Point guard Joey Kidder is showing as a sophomore what a difference he can make. He finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
"He makes a huge difference in our overall energy," Montreal said. "His energy level drives us. He and Talon play at such a high energy level, it makes everyone want to play at that level."
The Tigers had four players finish in double figures, with junior Drew Momchilovich producing 13 points.
Montreal said senior Blake Getschel has transferred his mentality from being the Tiger soccer goalkeeper to the basketball court, where his view of action helps him to direct teammates in both sports.
"He's become our vocal leader and the kids are really taking to that. He's got a unique way of encouraging. He's truly a team guy," Montreal said.
By halftime, the Tigers already had a 39-21 lead over Osceola and that lead grew steadily in the second half.
The Tigers also played a terrific second half in last Tuesday's game against Eau Claire Memorial, but under vastly different circumstances. The Tigers were stale on offense and couldn't hit a shot, resulting in them facing a 35-13 deficit. In the second half the Tigers made an extensive comeback, cutting the margin to four points, before losing 57-48.
The start of the game put the Tigers in a bad spot, falling behind 17-7. The end of the first half ended with Memorial on an 18-6 run, which resulted in the vast halftime deficit. In the second half the Tigers turned up the defensive fire and rebounded hard. That gave them time to gradually chop away at Memorial's lead.
Seckora led the Tigers with 11 points. Kidder finished with 10 points, Momchilovich nine and Getschel eight. Montreal said it was that second half that set up the team for success on Friday.
"That was the turning point, as far as the direction we need to be going," he said.
The Tigers will be at home for their next two games. They will host St. Croix Central this Friday, before hosting Menomonie in a non-conference game next Tuesday.