Good starts need to be followed through by the New Richmond boys basketball teams.
The inability to complete games after good starts against Prescott and St. Croix Central last week is likely a reflection of the disparity in varsity experience between the Tigers and last week's opponents.
The Tigers were a dynamic team through the first 10 minutes of last Tuesday's game at Prescott, leading the Middle Border Conference leaders 21-17. Prescott then kicked up its high-powered attack and the Tigers got swept away in the waves, losing 89-63.
The scene was similar at home on Friday, Dec. 15 for the Tigers, where they were tied with St. Croix Central 16-16 midway through the first half. Central finished the half with a 13-0 run. The Tigers were able to get as close as four points, but a huge amount of fouls weighed down their comeback in a 62-50 loss to the Panthers.
Tiger coach Rick Montreal said the team "hit the reset button" over the weekend to refigure who the top eight players on the team are. He said this group could change game by game, depending on how the Tigers perform in games and in practice.
Montreal said one thing became clear as the strong starts in both games vanished quickly.
"We lacked any semblance of a leader," he said, particularly in the offensive end.
He said the offensive issues stem from a need to perform the basics better.
"We don't screen well enough; that's really basic," he said, saying the team also needs to be better at cutting off screens to create some distance from defenders.
The coaches didn't have a problem with the defensive effort against Central, other than 28 fouls the Tigers committed. Montreal said the officials were correct in calling that many fouls. The foul problems hurt severely when Central was making its 13-0 run at the end of the first half, because the Tigers already had three players sitting out with three fouls.
The bright spots on Friday mainly came from the Tigers' post players. Cole Effertz played his best game of the season, finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds. Blake Getschel, the Tigers only senior, produced 10 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Cooper Eral entered the game in the second half and gave the team a needed offensive spark.
One player who caught the coaches' attention in both games last week was sophomore Jack Stuedemann. He produced 10 points and five rebounds against Prescott. When the Tigers made their run in the second half it was Stuedemann who triggered it, scoring five straight points.
"He's quietly moved up into the sixth or seventh spot," Montreal said of Stuedemann's climb up the roster.
The Tigers ran into an offensive buzzsaw at Prescott last Tuesday. The Cards came into the action averaging 86 points per game, so the 89 points was just an average night for them. The Cards have two of the best offensive players in the conference in Peter Brookshaw and Parker Nielsen, who combined for 53 points. Montreal marveled at their ability to break down defenders in the open court. That's something the Tigers are still trying to learn. Montreal said the team works on explosiveness in practice every day.
Getschel was the Tigers' leader at Prescott with 14 points. He is the only senior seeing action for the Tigers currently. Montreal said the Tigers are still early in the learning curve, with three sophomores and six juniors on the varsity team.
"With our youth and the direction of our personnel, I think we'll be better in February," Montreal projected. "I feel very enthused about what this team can be. I think we'll figure things out."
The Tigers will be in action this Thursday, playing in a non-conference game at River Falls. The Tigers are then off until Friday, Dec. 29, when they face Medford in a tournament at Altoona.