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Spartans flying high

Somerset guard Jack Emmert (left) has the ability create a number of scoring opportunities for his teammates by driving past his defender on the perimeter. (Photo by Dave Newman)

Talk about flying high.

In seven days, the Somerset boys basketball team knocked off the unbeaten Middle Border Conference leader, added MBC wins against Durand and Osceola, and took the inside track to the top seed in the WIAA Division 3 tournament bracket by beating Barron on Monday.

The week of incredible play began last Tuesday when the Spartans shocked Prescott 58-40, creating a tie at the top of the MBC standings. Prescott had only one close MBC game to this point, a narrow escape in a 37-35 win over Ellsworth the previous Tuesday. The Cards had beaten Somerset by 12 the first time they met.

This time around, the Spartans had a plan that worked to perfection at both ends of the court. On offense the Spartans featured seniors Jack Emmert and Gaelin Elmore and they both responded with huge efforts. Emmert shot incredibly well, hitting 8-10 shots from the field.

Elmore was unstoppable in the paint. Prescott tried several different defenders, but none could stop Elmore once he got the ball in his hands. When Prescott tried to use a zone defense to stop Elmore, Emmert drove into the lane and delivered several lob passes to Elmore for close-range shots.

Emmert and Elmore both finished with 23 points in the game.

Equally important in the win was the Spartans’ defense. Prescott has several excellent perimeter shooters. The Spartans have developed perhaps the best group of perimeter defenders in the conference. They constantly harassed Prescott’s guards, not letting them set their feet to square up their shots.

By halftime, Somerset had already rolled up a 27-19 lead. Any thoughts Prescott had of coming back were done in by Somerset’s exceptional free throw shooting. The Spartans were 19-23 from the line, including hitting 13 in a row during the fourth quarter.

On Thursday, the Spartans travelled to Durand, where it took the Spartans a quarter to get back up to speed. Durand led after eight minutes, 5-4.

“The first quarter was a real struggle for both teams,” said Somerset coach Brent Larson.

In the second quarter, the Spartans began attacking Durand’s zone defense and the Spartans quickly took control. By halftime Somerset led 23-12 and the lead stayed in a safe range the rest of the game.

Heaven Hunt led the Spartans with 16 points, nearly all of them coming in the second half. Emmert scored 11 points and Elmore contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds. Emmert also recorded six steals.

The third game of the week came at home on Friday when the Spartans hosted Osceola. While the Chieftains are at the bottom of the MBC standings, they presented a worthy adversary on Friday, losing 55-40.

Osceola has a tall lineup that forced Somerset’s offense to the perimeter. The Spartans shot an incredible 35 three-pointers in the game, hitting 10 of them.

“We did a good job boxing out and rebounding, but their size was a challenge for us,” Larson said.

Emmert led the Spartans with 23 points and nine assists in the game. Hunt contributed 17 points and four steals while Elmore’s 11 rebounds led the team.

The Spartans took the inside track on the top seed in the WIAA Division 3 regional when they defeated Barron on Monday 51-48. The seeding for the tournament bracket will be done over the weekend.

Barron would likely have had a strong claim to the stop seed with a win Monday. Barron is led by Jason Balts, who scored 27 points against the Spartans. Larson tried a number of players attempting to slow down Balts. Hunt had the most success when he guarded Balts in the fourth quarter.

The game was tight the whole way. Somerset’s biggest lead was six and the Spartans’ biggest deficit was four points during the third quarter. Hunt hit a basket, drawing a foul in a process, to cut into Barron’s lead at that moment.

Emmert led the Spartans with 18 points Monday. Elmore finished with 15 points and Hunt 14 points.

The Spartans’ final game before the seeding meeting is a critical one for seeding and in the pursuit of the MBC title. The Spartans play at Ellsworth Friday. The Panthers are one game behind Somerset and Prescott in the MBC standings and Ellsworth’s combination of size and perimeter shooting has troubled many teams. The Spartans barely escaped their first meeting with Ellsworth, winning 70-67.