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New Richmond girls win title in Thorp basketball tournament

The versatility of Kaitlynn Belisle (20) has made her a valuable asset to the New Richmond girls basketball team this season.

It took the New Richmond girls basketball team a half to find its offense, but a strong second half lifted the Tigers to a 35-22 win over Thorp in the championship game of the Thorp Holiday Invitational on Saturday.

The first half of the game was anything but explosive for the Tiger offense. They scored eight points in the opening eight minutes. But in the second quarter, the Tigers were held scoreless.

Tiger leading scorer Sydney Kannel was getting heavy defensive attention in the first half. Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer said the girls need better recognition of double-teams on Kannel, because it should be leaving another player open. He said girls also were getting away from the planned approach the team had for the game.

“There were times we went rogue and things fell apart,” he said.

Defense won the game for the Tigers. While the offense was in trouble, the defense didn’t let Thorp take advantage. Thorp only had 13 points in the first half. When the Tiger offense got rolling in the second half, it only made the defense better, holding Thorp to nine points in the second half.

Sydney Kannel led the Tigers with 14 points and Hannah Simpson scored 10 points.  In a rarity for the Tigers of this era, they did not have a successful three-point shot during the game.

In the first day of the tournament, the Tigers rolled to a one-sided victory over Abbotsford.  Abbotsford is the opponent the Tigers defeated in the championship game of last year’s tournament.

The Tigers had a good scouting report based on last year’s game and they took charge in this game immediately. Abbotsford had two taller girls, but the Tigers’ post defense, led by Mattie Kidder and Maddie Kelly,  took them out of the attack. The Tiger perimeter defense put heavy pressure on the Abbotsford guards to completely dry up the Abbotsford attack.

The Tigers had it working at both ends of the court. Led by Kannel’s outside shooting and drives to the basket, the Tigers had the lead up to 20 points in the first half. Kannel sank four three-pointers in the second quarter, part of her 25-point game.

Kidder joined Kannel in double figures, finishing with 15 points.

The Tiger reserves played much of the second half.  Kanewischer said it was an opportunity to get seniors Blaire Ziebol and Emily LaPorte some deserved playing time and sophomore Laura Seeger saw her most extensive varsity game time.

One of Kanewischer’s goals for the tournament was to get Simpson reinserted into the team’s starting lineup.  Simpson missed the pre-season with elbow surgery and the coaches have been bringing her along gradually.  Kanewischer expressed satisfaction that Simpson is back to full speed and the offense will run more smoothly with her back as a starter.

Kaitlynn Belisle and Kennedy Kling got extra playing time to fill Simpson’s minutes. They will now be the team’s two primary reserves. Kanewischer said they have both become reliable players. Belisle can be used at any position on the court and the coaches like Kling’s gritty style.

The Tigers return to action this Friday with a non-conference home game against River Falls. This is a rematch of the dramatic overtime Tiger victory that knocked River Falls out of the WIAA playoffs last year.

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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