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Spartans' inspired play reaps two wins

Somerset freshman Rachel Gaikowski (22) scores on a drive to the basket during a recent Spartan game. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

"It was one of the most beautiful 18 minutes of basketball I've ever witnessed."

That's what Somerset girls basketball coach Cory Lindenberg had to say after the Spartans rolled up 45 points in the first half of their win over Thorp in the second day of the Chetek holiday tournament. Aside from one glaring exception, the tournament couldn't have gone better for the Spartans. They opened the tournament Thursday. Dec. 28 with a 48-40 win over the host Chetek-Weyerhaeuser team. That was followed by a 69-45 win over Thorp on Friday.

The only possible drawback from the tournament could be a major one. During the second half of Friday's game, Somerset senior guard Anna Rybacki was injured when an opposing player accidentally stepped upon her left hand. As of Monday afternoon, the Spartan coaches were still waiting to hear on the extent of the injury.

The two wins at Chetek raise the Spartans' season record to 5-6.

Even after Rybacki's injury in Friday's game, there were highlights in the Spartans' play. Lindenberg said the other girls, particularly junior Georgia Hammer, saw a need.

"Georgia understood she needed to take over. She stepped up big time," Lindenberg said.

The Spartans led 45-18 at halftime of Friday's game. The scoring uprising was the result of every girl clicking, with five players scoring nine or more points in the game. Hammer led the team with 18 points. Tori Gareis finished with 12 points and Dani Schachtner scored 10 points. Rybacki and Rachel Gaikowski both finished with nine points.

"It was a total team effort," Lindenberg said of the first half. He said the passing, cutting and pure unselfish play were resulting in the girls getting open looks all over the court. That included reserve post player Eve Goldstein.

"Eve played her best half of basketball," Lindenberg said.

The red-hot shooting included incredible success from beyond the three-point arc. The Spartans hit 13 three-pointers, led by four each from Hammer and Gareis. Lindenberg said Gareis has always been able to shoot, but this season she has become a complete player.

"I'm surprised how well she's been playing defense. As a leader, she's coming into her own. The improvement is dramatic and impressive," Lindenberg said.

The signs of an upswing in the team's play began to show in the second half of Thursday's win over Chetek-Weyerhaeuser. The start of Thursday's game didn't show those signs, with the Spartans falling behind by eight points early in the action.

"It took a while to shake off the Christmas cobwebs," Lindenberg said.

By halftime, the Spartans had cut the margin to 20-17. Early in the second half, the Spartans took the lead and they had a comfortable advantage through most of the half.

Hammer led the Spartans with 13 points Thursday. Gareis finished with 12 points and Rybacki ended with 11 points.

The Spartans return to Middle Border Conference play this Thursday with a game at St. Croix Central, with the game being played at Central's middle school in Hammond. The Spartans will be on the road again next Tuesday with a game at Amery.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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