The potential of the New Richmond boys basketball team is turning into production more often. The Tigers took on River Falls, the leader of the Big Rivers Conference Thursday, Dec. 21, and the Tigers battled the Wildcats right to the end, losing 81-77. That game two nights after the Tigers scored a win against another BRC opponent, Menomonie, 52-48.
Both games had high intensity finishes. It is games like the one in River Falls that turns a young team like the Tigers into a seasoned squad. River Falls led 74-70, before New Richmond senior Auggie Altena hit his sixth three-pointer of the game. River Falls scored again, but that was matched by Tiger senior Blake Getschel. A pair of sophomores then put the Tigers in the lead, with Joey Kidder getting a steal, setting up Jack Stuedemann for the go-ahead points with 50 seconds remaining.
River Falls freshman Zac Johnson hit a three-pointer to put the Wildcats in front 79-77 with 13 seconds left. The Wildcats got a steal off an inbounds play and two late free throws to make the final margin four points.
"There was a lot of energy in that gym," said Tiger coach Rick Montreal. "We felt good about what we did. We got better. That was the goal."
The Tiger players and coaches have been stressing daily improvement. One thing that changed the Tigers was Altena, who was playing in his first game of the season. He finished with a team-high 24 points.
"He definitely gets us going. Every time (River Falls) tried to make a run we had an answer and that answer usually was Auggie," Montreal said.
Getschel also had a strong night. He finished with 17 points and led the Tigers with nine rebounds. Kidder led the Tigers with seven assists and three steals.
In Tuesday's win against Menomonie, the game was tied 46-46. The Tigers then got five straight points to put away the win. The coaches settled on two juniors and three sophomores to handle the determining stretch late in the game. That included juniors Talon Seckora and Ryan Kling and sophomores Kidder, Stuedemann and Cooper Eral. The coaches do a plus/minus rating for every game and the team leaders were Stuedemann (+14), Kling (+11) and Eral (+10).
"We played eight guys and all eight contributed," Montreal said.
The Tigers had to overcome a rough start Tuesday, going several minutes at the start of the game without scoring. The Tigers led 23-18 at halftime. Menomonie then made its charge, leading by eight points in the second half. Within 90 seconds, the Tigers had re-tied the game. Montreal attributed the comeback to tough defensive work, saying Seckora led the team with a tough-minded attitude.
Kidder led the Tigers with 17 points and Seckora scored 15 points. Kidder also produced seven rebounds and four assists, and he was 11-12 from the free throw line.
This weekend, the Tigers will be competing in a new holiday tournament at Altoona. The Tigers will face Medford at 5:45 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday the Tigers will face either Bloomer or Altoona.