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Somerset boys basketball team building upon its strengths

Somerset’s Gaelin Elmore (20) didn’t block this shot, but his long reach altered a number of New Richmond shots during Friday’s Spartan win.

The Somerset boys basketball coaching staff used the 2013 portion of the team’s schedule to assess the team’s strengths.

The Spartans unveiled a new lineup and a new approach in their first game of 2014, a 52-33 homecourt win over New Richmond last Friday.

The coaches decided that the play of center Gaelin Elmore and the team’s abundance of quick guards were the strengths that they would try to build around for the rest of the season. That meant a change in the starting lineup, moving J.T. Karis into a starter’s role, so the Spartans will be playing most of the time with three guards on the court.

Spartan coach Brent Larson said the lineup change didn’t mean anyone had played themselves out of a job. He said he was going off the advice of a coaching friend who suggested a team should have its best “on-ball” defender on the court to start the game. Larson said Karis and Zac Waalen, who have both been playing in reserve roles, were the team’s best on-ball defenders.

The Spartans had their hands full with an inspired Tiger team for most of the first half. New Richmond led 20-15 with five minutes left in the first half. The Spartans then went on an 11-0 run to finish the half. That charge was led by guard Heaven Hunt, who scored nine of his 11 points in the second quarter.

In the second quarter, the Spartans were more active at both ends of the court. Hunt created several scoring opportunities for teammates, as well as himself, during the quarter. The press, led by Waalen and Karis, also began forcing New Richmond into turnovers.

“Zac had a really nice game,” Coach Larson said. “He made good decisions with the ball and did a really nice job defensively.”

Waalen also hauled in seven rebounds, quickly getting the ball upcourt to set up several Spartan scores in transition.

Elmore’s work in the paint served as the hub of the Spartan offense. The Spartans isolated him for more one-on-one moves in the low post. It helped him score a game-high 17 points, but it also created some open perimeter shots when the Tigers elected to double-team Elmore.

This Thursday, the Spartans will tangle with another of the Middle Border Conference leaders when they get a visit from the Ellsworth boys. Ellsworth started the week with a 4-0 MBC record while the Spartans were 3-1. Somerset will play another conference game at Amery next Tuesday, when they are part of a boy-girl double-header. The girls varsity game will be played at 6:30 p.m., with the boys varsity game beginning at 8:15 p.m.

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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