New Richmond boys basketball plays Friday at Somerset
The emotional roller coaster ride the New Richmond boys basketball team has rode this season has had more highs and lows than the wildest rides at ValleyFair.
And often the Tigers’ twists and turns have come within the same game.
The game that epitomized the Tigers’ emotion-wracking season came last Tuesday at St. Croix Central. The Tigers played perhaps their best half in the first half. But they backed off on the intensity in the second half and lost to the Panthers, 44-40.
The Tigers get a win they could savor last Thursday. They went to Baldwin-Woodville and led from start to finish, getting a chance to relax in a 52-29 win over the Blackhawks.
On Friday the Tigers played their third game in four days. They played well at times, but not well enough to beat one of the top teams from the Big Rivers Conference, losing to Chippewa Falls, 64-52.
There are three games remaining on the Tigers’ regular season schedule. They will play at Somerset this Friday, looking to avenge a 46-45 loss to the Spartans from Jan. 12. That is followed by two home games, against Amery next Monday and Rice Lake on Thursday, Feb. 23.
The Tigers are currently 5-14. There are games that slipped from their grasp, most notably last Tuesday’s game at Central.
The first half at St. Croix Central was everything the Tigers have been hoping to produce this season. The defensive intensity forced the Panthers into a number of awkward, off-balance shots. And the offense was moving, getting shots off quick series of passes and off smart drives to the basket. At halftime, the Tigers led 27-9.
In the second half, the Tigers backed off, at both ends of the court. The offense became perimeter based and the defense became passive. Tiger coach Rick Montreal said the first half was everyone on the team had been waiting for.
“That first half is a good memory. I thought we were turning the corner and having some fun actually. We were winning most of the battles for 50/50 balls and rebounds. I thought we wanted it more,” he said.
Montreal called the second half a “mirror opposite.” The lead, which had grown as large as 20, steadily dwindled. Adam Schoepke gave the Tigers a 40-39 lead with a shot from the corner with 2:39 left, but it would be the last time the Tigers would score.
Schoepke and Auggie Altena led the Tigers with 11 points and Ryan Jansen scored eight points and led the team with five rebounds. Schoepke had five assists.
Thursday’s game at Baldwin was a gut check time for the Tigers. The Tigers opened the game just as they did against St. Croix Central, playing an outstanding first half in rolling up a 32-11 lead. This time, there would be no second half anxiety. The Tigers withstood B-W’s best challenge and rebuilt their lead to 20 points and beyond.
Altena and Cole Effertz led the Tigers with 12 points each, with Schoepke contributing nine points. Effertz finished with nine points and Schoepke four assists. Russ Hop had a nice game off the bench, with four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Altena moved into the starting lineup Thursday and opponents noticed. Montreal said teams are respecting his outside shooting range, forcing opposing teams to stretch their defense a bit, which opens up a few more passing lanes in the paint for the Tigers. He scored 11 more against Chippewa Falls.
In Friday’s game, the Tigers got off to a cold start. That changed when the reserves entered the game. After trailing by double digits early, the Tigers cut the margin to 25-24. But a couple turnovers late in the half allowed the Cards to extend the lead back to 35-27.
“It was good to see our young guys contribute and have some fire,” Montreal said. He said the reserves who stood out included Hop, Grant Riemenschneider, Joey Kidder and Drew Momchilovich.
Among the starters, Effertz and Jansen stood out. Effertz was challenging defenders, finishing with 20 points and six assists. Jansen remained the most consistent player in the Tiger lineup, contributing eight points, five rebounds and two steals.
“Night in and night out, I know what I’m going to get from Ryan,” Montreal said.