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New Richmond girls basketball overwhelms MBC opponents

New Richmond senior Maddie Kelly (left) battles with Somerset’s Sam Flandrick for control of a rebound during last Tuesday’s game.

Middle Border Conference opponents are finding out, that if they want to compete with the New Richmond girls basketball team, they better play incredible first halves.

The Tiger girls scored a pair of MBC wins last week. In both instances, the game was close at halftime, but the Tigers buried their opponents in the second half.

In last Tuesday’s game at Somerset, the Tigers’ experience weighed heavily in their favor as they rolled past the Spartans 65-24.

On Friday, the Tigers went to Amery to face an opponent that was also in the top half of the MBC standings. The Tigers led 25-18 at halftime. The third quarter was completely dominated by New Richmond, outscoring the Warriors 28-5. The Tigers kept the defensive intensity up through the fourth quarter to finish with a 62-27 victory.

Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer said he uses the first half to study what approach the opposing teams are taking. In the second half, the Tigers try to take away the ways the opponent is scoring.

Amery was basing most of its attack around Molly Stewart. In the second half, Kanewischer made a change that took the ball out of Stewart’s hands.

“Amery tried to isolate Stewart and have her dribble attack,” Kanewischer said. “We put Syd (Sydney Kannel) on her and that shut everything down. Syd does everything for us. Teams better respect that.”

Kannel is one of the leading scorers in the conference, but Kanewischer said she deserves to be recognized as one of the best overall players. She has become a shutdown defender and she contributes 6-8 assists in most Tiger games.

In the first half, Stewart had been able to bring the ball upcourt against the Tiger press. In the second half, the Tigers denied Stewart the ball, forcing the other players to handle the ball. The Tigers were able to force a number of turnovers, which energized the Tiger attack.

The third quarter charge was also fueled by some deadly outside shooting as the Tigers hit four three-pointers in the quarter, including two from Hannah Swetlik.

Kannel led the Tigers with 24 points in the win. The rest of the points were well distributed among the starters, with Mattie Kidder and Hannah Simpson both scoring 10 points, Maddie Kelly eight points and Swetlik six points.

The depth of the basketball knowledge of the Tiger girls came into play last Tuesday when the Tigers played at Somerset. Both teams had gone without practice in the three days before the game because of the polar vortex that swept across the country. The Tigers looked like a team that hadn’t missed a minute of practice in mashing the Spartans 65-24.

It did take the Tigers a few minutes to find their shooting touch. They led by a 12-4 edge after the first quarter. The Tigers opened the second quarter with a 13-0 run that ended any doubt of the final outcome.

Kannel scored nine of her 17 points during the second quarter.

Kidder feasted off generous passing, scoring 19 points. Kannel fed Kidder for several close-range shots. Maddie Kelly also made several baseline drives that opened up Kidder for easy shots.

One of the key features in this game was Kannel’s defense. Kannel frustrated Somerset leading scorer Tori Martell, holding her scoreless in the first half of the game.

Kanewischer said Somerset reminds him of the Tigers several years ago when this year’s seniors were freshmen.

“Somerset has some nice things in place. They’ll be good in the future,” Kanewischer predicted.

The Tigers complete the first half of the Middle Border Conference schedule this Friday with a game at Prescott. The second half of the conference schedule starts next Tuesday with a home game against Osceola.