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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As the second seed in the WIAA sectional bracket, there are high expectations for the Somerset boys basketball team in this year's playoffs. The play of the Spartans last week didn't do much to instill faith in the team for the playoffs. The Spartans ended the regular season last Thursday with a 46-41 loss at Durand. That came two nights after the Spartans barely escaped a St. Croix Falls team that has won just twice this season, 58-52. The loss to Durand leaves the Spartans with a 7-7 final record in the Middle Border Conference, where they place fifth.
Ever since the Somerset girls basketball team lost to Durand in the first round of Middle Border Conference play, the Spartans were targeting last Friday's rematch with the Panthers. Somerset was hoping Friday's game would give them a chance to compete for the MBC title, but a recent swoon took them out of competition for a conference title. The Spartans still had a major impact on the final conference championship outcome. The Spartans knocked off Durand 33-30 on Friday, making it possible for New Richmond to win a share of the 2011-12 conference title.
For three quarters, the St. Croix Central boys basketball team was the equal of Spring Valley. In the fourth quarter, fouls and turnovers weighed down the Panthers, causing them to tail off in a 59-46 loss at Spring Valley last Thursday. Central finishes the regular season with a 2-20 record. The Panthers finished with a 2-14 record in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference. The Panthers were scheduled to begin WIAA Division 3 tournament action on Tuesday with a game at Unity. The winner of Tuesday's game will play again on Friday at Barron. The Bears are the third seed in the sectional bracket.
With one win all season, you might think the St. Croix Central girls basketball team is looking forward to the end of season. Central coach Luke Fritsche said that isn't so. The Panthers have been playing markedly better at the end of the season, nearly pulling off a major upset on Friday. The Panthers rallied back from a 17-point halftime deficit at Elmwood on Friday, losing to the Raiders 47-40. Elmwood has a 14-7 record and had recently notched wins against top Dunn-St.
The New Richmond boys have become the first Middle Border Conference team to win conference boys basketball championships in five straight seasons. The Tigers completed that feat on Thursday with a 50-29 win over Osceola. New Richmond finishes tied with Baldwin-Woodville for the 2011-12 MBC championship. Both teams finish with 11-3 records. B-W locked up its share of the title with a 46-36 win over Ellsworth on Thursday. New Richmond went relatively unchallenged by the young Osceola team on Thursday, which was the Senior Night game for the Tigers.
Ten local wrestlers will be in action when the second day of the WIAA state wrestling championships at 10 a.m. on Friday at the Kohl Center in Madison. New Richmond has two wrestlers who will be competing on Friday, while Somerset and St. Croix Central will each have four wrestlers in action. New Richmond's Shane Blackman and Abe Anderson will be competing in the wrestlebacks on Friday after losing their opening Division 1 matches on Thursday. Blackman was defeated 10-7 by Justin Parker of Milwaukee Bradley Tech in the 113-pound opening round.
New Richmond sophomore Shane Blackman earned a return trip to the WIAA state wrestling championships on Saturday. Tiger junior Abe Anderson gets a long awaited chance to wrestle at state after near misses in the sectional tournament each of the past two years. Blackman and Anderson were among eight Tigers who competed at the Eau Claire North Division 1 sectional meet on Saturday.
By qualifying four wrestlers for the 2012 WIAA State Championships, the Somerset wrestling team has already broken new ground. The Spartans are hoping to add several more accomplishments when they wrestle in the state championships, which begin today (Thursday) at the Kohl Center in Madison. Seniors Haydon Dvorak and Austin Bushinger and juniors Bobby LeRoy and Gabe Flandrick qualified for state with their performances at the Osceola Division 2 sectional meet on Saturday. This is the first time Somerset has qualified four wrestlers for the state wrestling tournament.
One more win. That's all the 2011-12 season boils down to for the New Richmond boys basketball team. The Tigers host Osceola this Thursday. If the Tigers win, they guarantee themselves a share of the Middle Border Conference title. This would be the fifth straight season where the Tigers finished as MBC champions. Tiger coach Rick Montreal said the players, especially the seniors, have been on a season-long mission to continue the streak of conference championships.
Drawing Somerset as an opponent only heightened the excitement for the New Richmond boys hockey team as the Tigers opened the WIAA playoffs on Thursday night. The intensity of the rivalry resulted in 16 penalties. The strength of the Tigers' penalty killing unit proved to be a major difference as New Richmond scored a 4-0 win, ending Somerset's season. The win moved the Tigers into Tuesday's sectional semifinal game against Hudson. The winner of Tuesday's game will play in the sectional championship game, which will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Amery Ice Arena.