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New Richmond girls basketball uses one-sided games as learning tools

New Richmond senior guard Hannah Swetlik (24) brings the ball across the timeline against Osceola’s full-court pressure last Tuesday.

It would have been easy for the New Richmond girls basketball team to coast through its games last week against the bottom two teams in the Middle Border Conference standings.

The Tigers are still in the hunt for the Middle Border Conference title and they weren’t going to let two games pass by without getting maximum value of the court time. So while the Tigers were beating Osceola 59-31 last Tuesday and Ellsworth 71-36 last Friday, the coaching staff was finding every way possible to use the games as learning tools. In the fourth quarter of both games the coaches used up their timeouts, using those breaks to draw up specific plays for the team to try coming out of the timeout.

“We have to use (last week’s games) almost as organized practices because of the weather,” said Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer, referring to the numerous practices the team has missed due to snow days.

Friday’s game against Ellsworth couldn’t have worked better as a learning tool for the Tigers. Ellsworth played zone defense in the first half and man defense in the second half, so the Tigers got to work on their attack for both defensive styles. And the 71 points shows that the offense was clicking.

Leading the Tigers in scoring on Friday was junior Hannah Simpson with 21 points. Kanewischer said Simpson is all the way back from her elbow surgery in November and playing at a peak level. So are seniors Mattie Kidder and Sydney Kannel, who each scored 18 points on Friday.

Getting 57 points out of the team’s top three scorers shows the capabilities of the team’s offense. Kanewischer said opponents who think they can shut down the Tigers if they concentrate their defensive efforts on Kannel are in for a shock.

The Tigers were deadly from the three-point arc on Friday, with Simpson, Kannel and Hannah Swetlik combining for seven three-pointers. After the first quarter, the focus for the Tigers became finding ways to work the ball inside against zone defenses. They did that consistently, with Kidder scoring at least four points in each quarter.

Ellsworth provides a challenge for every opponent in post player Kelsey Betthauser, one of the leading scorers in the MBC. The Tigers limited Betthauser to five points in the first half as the Tigers rolled to a 34-11 halftime lead. Betthauser was able to score 12 points in the second half when the Tiger reserves saw extensive playing time.

The results were similar in last Tuesday’s win over Osceola. The Tigers led 29-8 at halftime and the damage could have been much more severe as the Tigers missed numerous shots from short range.

“We had a lot of easy looks and we need to capitalize on those,” Kanewischer said. “The good thing is those looks are what we want to get within our offense.”

Kannel led the Tigers with 16 points and five assists against Osceola. She shared the team lead in steals with Simpson, each of them taking the ball away five times. Kidder finished the game with 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. Maddie Kelly contributed seven points, six rebounds and four assists.

The Tigers wanted to learn all they could from these home games because they will be facing their most important stretch of the season in the next few weeks. That stretch begins this Friday when the Tigers play at Durand, the team that is directly behind them in the MBC standings. The Tigers face another challenging opponent when they play at Barron next Tuesday. That will be followed by a game at MBC-leading Baldwin-Woodville on Friday, Feb. 7.

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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