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New Richmond girls basketball, Baldwin-Woodville will clash for MBC lead Friday

New Richmond junior Hannah Simpson (23) has been an offensive dynamo lately, including scoring 23 points at Durand on Friday.

The battle for supremacy in the Middle Border Conference girls basketball race is at hand.

New Richmond and Baldwin-Woodville will clash for the MBC lead this Friday on the Blackhawks’ home court. B-W started the week with a 10-0 record, followed closely by the Tigers at 9-1.

The Tigers and Blackhawks are both coming off games where they were severely tested last Friday. The Tigers held off Durand, the third place team in the MBC, 50-47. Baldwin-Woodville had its hands full early with Somerset, trailing 19-13 late in the first half, before pulling away from the Spartans 58-40.

When the Tigers and Hawks met on Dec. 20, B-W pulled away in the second half for a 42-32 victory.

There’s one major difference in the Tigers since that game. Junior Hannah Simpson was just coming back from an injury in the first meeting. She’s now playing at full strength and she’s been one of the top scorers in the conference. She’s scored 21 and 23 points in the Tigers’ past two games. Her 23 points made her the leading scorer in the Tigers’ win at Durand on Friday.

Facing Durand was an excellent primer for the Tigers to get ready for the Hawks. Durand is led by Morganne Gruber, the top scorer in the MBC, averaging 20.6 points per game. Tiger coach Jeff Kanewischer said the objective Friday was to keep Gruber from having a huge game while not letting any of the other Panthers have a breakout game.

Gruber was able to score 22 points, but no other Panther scored more than six points.

While Durand relies heavily on one scorer, all five starters in the Tiger lineup are capable of scoring in double figures in any game. In Friday’s game it was Simpson, Mattie Kidder and Maddie Kelly. Kelly scored 11 points and Kidder 10 points. Guard Sydney Kannel, the Tigers’ leading scorer this season, was put in more of a ball distributor role because of Durand’s defensive pressure.

This game was about as close as could be for three quarters. The teams were tied 13-13 after a quarter and 25-25 at halftime. Durand led 37-36 after the third quarter, but the Tigers caught fire early in the fourth quarter. The Tigers built a lead as large as eight points. Durand put on heavy pressure in the final minutes, but the Tigers held their ground.

Kannel led the Tigers with five steals in the game, most of them coming when the Tigers mixed in full-court pressure. Simpson generated six rebounds, five at the offensive end. Kidder had another well-rounded game with five rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists.

This game came after the Tigers had played the two bottom teams in the conference. Kanewischer said he was anxious to see how the team would respond against a top-level opponent.

“The team is really clicking right now,” he said. “Both teams played hard. Durand is a heckuva program.”

Baldwin-Woodville isn’t the only tough opponent on the Tigers’ radar. They will play their fourth straight road game next Monday when they play a non-conference game at Hudson.

As part of Friday’s game at Baldwin, the Baldwin-Woodville schools will  host its fifth annual “Bowls for the Soul.” This is a fundraiser for the B-W Backpack Buddies program, a food assistance program at Greenfield Elementary. It will run from 4:30-7:30 at the BWHS commons. With the purchase of a $5 handmade bowl you receive soup, bread, beverage and dessert. A silent auction will also be held.

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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