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New Richmond boys basketball tattered by Ellsworth

New Richmond’s Ben Peterson gets a shot away in the post over an Ellsworth defender during Friday’s game.1 / 2
New Richmond senior Jason Fern (right) goes up for a shot in the first half against Ellsworth.2 / 2

Two losses in the same week by more than 25 points is a first in the eight years that New Richmond boys basketball coach Rick Montreal has been in charge of the team.

Losses last Friday to Ellsworth and last Tuesday to Rice Lake were both one-sided. The 67-35 loss to Ellsworth on Friday was the worst loss the Tigers have experienced under Montreal in Middle Border Conference action. The Tigers hadn’t loss a conference game by more than 30 points since they dropped a 65-29 decision to Somerset on Feb. 17, 2004.

While Tuesday’s loss at Rice Lake was also one-sided, it was a far different performance from the Tigers. Rice Lake is the favorite to win the Big Rivers Conference and may be the best team in this part of the state. The Tigers put up an excellent effort, especially in the defensive end, in the 58-29 loss.

Friday’s loss to Ellsworth is the one that should gnaw at the minds of the Tigers. It will with their fans. The Tigers trudged through their offensive motions and they were passive on the defensive end.

“We’re struggling on both ends of the court to do anything well,” Montreal said.

That loss caused the Tiger coaches to simplify their playbook. Montreal said the coaches may have overestimated the players’ “basketball IQ,” so the coaches will give the players more structure in their plans.

The answers won’t be found in IQ at the defensive end. They’ll be a result of effort, both in practices and in games. Montreal said there are 12 players in the running for playing time and none has separated himself from the pack. He said playing time will be earned with effort in practice.

“There seems to be a lack of fire on the boards and defense. Right now that’s what I’m looking for,” Montreal said.

One player who did put up a noticeable rebounding effort was senior forward Jason Fern. When Ellsworth began pulling away in the second quarter, Fern hauled in several rebounds to limit Ellsworth to one-shot possessions.

The Tigers only trailed 15-10 after the first quarter. By halftime the lead stood at 27-18. The Tigers gave up 20 points in each of the final two quarters as the defense eroded badly. Ellsworth kept leading scorer Chrystian Kulow on the floor until the final minute of the game. He beefed up his stats with 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.

Ellsworth’s real threat was center Kyle Murphy, who scored 23 points.

The Tigers were led by senior Connor McCann with seven points.

The loss to Rice Lake was a much different case. Rice Lake is led by Henry Ellenson, one of the top players in the state. The 6-9 junior is being recruited by the top collegiate programs in the country. Ellenson scored 26 points against the Tigers.

In the first half, the Tigers handled the press decently. Rebounds were scarce against the taller Warriors. With a persistent defense the Tigers stayed in contention through the first half, trailing 29-17 at halftime. Rice Lake pulled away by outscoring the Tigers 16-4 in the third quarter.

Promising offensive production from the Tiger guards was one bright spot from the loss at Rice Lake. The Tigers received a combined 15 points from Connor O’Loughlin and Caleb Manecke in the loss.

The Tigers are now in a stretch where they play consecutive non-conference games. They will play at Hayward this Thursday before hosting Hudson next Tuesday. The next MBC game for the Tigers will be played on Thursday, Dec. 19, when they travel to Baldwin-Woodville.

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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