In the early nights of the Middle Border Conference schedule, the Somerset girls basketball team has shown it can compete with most of the MBC teams.
Spartan coach Cory Lindenberg is hoping this is just the starting point for the Spartans. Last Tuesday the Spartans won their MBC opener against New Richmond, 49-32. On Friday the Spartans and Osceola played a thriller, with the teams matching points through the final minutes of the action. It was Osceola that came out on top, 55-53.
The Spartans still carry the earmarks of a young team, struggling with consistency. But with each game, there are more signs that the team is finding its way. In the win against New Richmond, the Spartans turned the ball over often in the early going, falling behind by six points. In the final minutes of the opening half, the Spartans began to find an offensive rhythm. With a late charge, the Spartans went ahead, leading 32-26 at halftime. The offensive charge continued in the second half, with the Spartans outscoring the Tigers 27-16.
Somerset had four girls score in double figures. Georgia Hammer and Rachel Gaikowski led the way with 13 points, Dani Schachtner scored 12 points and Anna Rybacki scored 10 points. Tori Gareis also scored eight points.
The distribution of points is a major sign of growth for the Spartans. Gaikowski and Schachtner are both freshmen. Schachtner scored all her points in the second half, as the Spartans excelled in getting her the ball at the low block.
The progress is showing more consistently in the defensive end for the Spartans.
"New Richmond is a nice matchup for us because we can switch against the dribble drive with more our lineup," Lindenberg explained.
Friday's game at Osceola was filled with moments of wonder and moments of anguish for the Spartans. They didn't play well in the first half, trailing 31-20 at the break. Rybacki had 12 of the Spartans' points in the first half.
In the second half, the Spartans recommitted to their gameplan and they gained ground quick. By the middle of the half the Spartans got within one point, then took their first lead when Rybacki scored off a steal.
Hammer then stepped up, putting on a major shooting display in the final minutes of the game. Osceola took a three-point lead, before Hammer tied the game with a three-ball. Osceola then built a four-point lead, before Hammer struck with another three. Osceola then built a 51-48 lead, but Hammer struck with another game-tying three. Osceola scored again, but Hammer hit two free throws to tie the game one last time.
Osceola broke the tie with 2.5 seconds remaining, scoring off an inbounds play, for the final points in the wild finish.
One area that determined the outcome in this game was rebounding. Osceola's Katie Haase finished with 17 rebounds as the Chieftains dominated the boards.
"Osceola killed us with offensive rebounds," Lindenberg said, saying most of the Chieftains' final 10 points came from second chances in the offensive end.
The Spartans weren't able to generate the same offensive balance on Friday. Rybacki and Hammer accounted for 38 of the team's points, Rybacki finishing with 21 and Hammer 17.
The schedule continues for the Spartans on Thursday with a home game against Prescott. The Spartans will make the trip to Ellsworth next Tuesday.