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New Richmond boys basketball team shows glimpses of promise in losses

New Richmond’s Jason Fern (12) drives to the basket against defense from Somerset’s Gaelin Elmore in Friday’s game.

The mercurial nature of the New Richmond boys basketball team continues to baffle, but it also gives a glimmer of hope.

The Tigers dropped to 2-9 for the season with a pair of losses over the weekend. In all nine of those losses, there were stretches where the Tigers looked like a respectable team.

Friday’s loss at Somerset is a prime example. The Tigers lost 52-33, but for the first 11 minutes of the game, it would have been easy to argue that the Tigers were the better team. At that point the Tigers led 20-15 and had played in a controlled style that limited turnovers.

But confidence appears to be a fleeting feature for the Tigers. When trouble hits the Tigers, they get engulfed in it. Such was the case Friday, when Somerset outscored the Tigers 11-0 to end the first half. The case was the same in the 67-50 loss to Menomonie on Saturday, only the Tigers’ problems started from the opening tip in that game.

In Friday’s game, the Tiger starting five put the team in good position to open the game. Senior Connor McCann scored seven of the team’s first nine points. The guard trio of Josh Geigle, Connor O’Loughlin and Caleb Manecke looked like a cohesive group, handling Somerset’s pressure with few glitches.

Somerset upped the pressure in the second quarter as the Tigers were working in some of their reserves. Once the Tigers’ confidence left the gym, no combination of players seemed to bring it back.

Tiger coach Rick Montreal said there are numerous players on the team who are strong at one aspect of the game, but said they need to become multi-dimensional for the team to improve. He said rebounding remains one of the main areas where the entire team needs to be more assertive. Against Somerset, McCann, Manecke and Noah Berger each grabbed four rebounds to lead the team. No Tiger had more than three rebounds against Menomonie.

After the Tigers fell behind by 15 points early in Saturday’s game, the team played competitively the rest of the night. There were glimpses of promise, especially at the offensive end.

Geigle scored a career-high 14 points, including hitting several shots from the perimeter. He also led the team with three steals.

“Josh is one of the best outside shooters we’ve got,” Montreal said.

That success was part of the coaches’ attempts to get the players to identify their teammates’ strengths. The team is pushing the idea of finding each player’s strengths and putting them in a position where they can use those strengths.

Berger also had a promising offensive game against Menomonie, finishing with 11 points.

Montreal is also trying to reward the players who are giving exceptional efforts with more playing time. One of those players who will be rewarded is senior guard Josh Emerson.

“Josh will earn some dividends from his four years of hard work,” Montreal said. “He’s one of the most selfless kids and he’s as coachable as anyone can be.”

Another way the Tigers are utilizing their strengths showed on Saturday. It was the first time the coaches used Berger and Ben Peterson at the same time. By getting the team’s top two post players on the court together the coaches are hoping it will improve the rebounding and make it more difficult for opponents to drive into the paint.

The Tigers are in a stretch where they will play four straight home games. The third of those games will be played next Tuesday, when the Tigers host Middle Border Conference co-leader Prescott.

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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