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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Three extremely sharp halves were enough to earn the New Richmond boys basketball team two Middle Border Conference wins last week. With those wins the Tigers reach the halfway point in the MBC schedule with a 6-1 record. They lead the conference by one game over Prescott and Baldwin-Woodville. The Tigers put together their best performance so far in 2012 last Tuesday, using a relentless defensive effort in beating Prescott 56-41. On Friday the Tigers went to Osceola and trailed the Chieftains 20-19 at halftime.
In the first year of powerlifting at New Richmond High School last year, it was the male lifters who earned the lion's share of the accolades. This year, the boys are going to have to share with the girls. There were major highlights for the Tiger boys and girls in their first meet of the 2012 season, at the Osceola regional qualifier meet on Jan. 14. The hardware from the meet was brought home by the Tiger girls, who took second place among the 10 teams competing. This is the first trophy earned by the New Richmond girls team.
By winning three straight games, the Somerset boys basketball team has climbed back into the Middle Border Conference race. The Spartans stand at 4-3 at the halfway point of the MBC season after finishing off Durand 56-46 on the Spartans' court last Friday. The win came after the Spartans won at Amery last Tuesday, 52-47. The Spartans trail MBC leader New Richmond by two games. Prescott and Baldwin-Woodville are tied in second place with 5-2 records. Somerset and Ellsworth are tied at 4-3. The Spartans' overall record now stands at 8-4.
The struggles of 2011 have turned into an extended run of success in 2012 for the New Richmond boys hockey team. The Tigers were 4-7 in the 2011 portion of their schedule. Since the calendar turned to January, the Tigers have gone 6-0. The most recent of those victories came against Amery and Menomonie last week. Both opponents last week had high-end individuals the Tigers had to contend with. The Tigers had already seen the capabilities of Amery's Jake Mullendore, who scored three goals when the Tigers lost to Amery 4-3 in late December.
The Somerset girls basketball team could be viewed as the "Jekyll and Hyde" team of the winter sports season. Their two-sided description refers to their play in Middle Border Conference games, compared to non-conference games. In MBC games, the Spartans continue to stand out. They entered the week tied for the MBC lead after earning a 44-36 conference win over Amery last Tuesday. It's in non-conference games that the Spartans' scary side comes out. The Spartans dropped to 0-8 in non-conference games when they lost at River Falls last Friday, 31-25.
Take away a 94-second span in the second period and the New Richmond girls hockey team gave the state-ranked Eau Claire-Altoona Stars quite a battle on Jan. 17. The Tigers lost 5-1 to the Stars at the New Richmond Sports Center, but the final score isn't an indication of how competitively the Tigers played. Neither team was able to score in the first period as the Tigers maintained a strong defensive presence in their own zone. The pivotal stretch of the game came in the middle of the second period, when the Stars scored the first three goals of the night within 94 seconds.
Somerset natives Kellie Ring and Ashley Martell are putting together strong seasons in women's college basketball in Minnesota this winter. Another Somerset native, Mike Schachtner, just began his third season of playing professional basketball in Europe. Ring is a junior point guard for the University of St. Thomas team that is currently leading the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Martell is a freshman shooting guard who has started 11 of the first 13 games for the Minnesota-Crookston team in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Talk about a drastic difference in performances. Last Thursday the Somerset hockey team was all but unstoppable in a 9-0 win at Baldwin-Woodville where the Spartans put 53 shots on goal. That came two nights after one of the Spartans' weakest performances of the season. The Spartans were limited to just 14 shots as they were plowed by Hudson 5-0. The two games last week leave the Spartans with an 11-5 record as they plan to face Amery on Somerset's home ice on Thursday. The Spartans lead the Middle Border Conference with a 3-0 record. The loss to Hudson came as a shock to the Spartans.
Never heard of pickleball? It is a fun, fast-paced game for all ages that has gained rapid popularity across the nation. A demonstration of how to play pickleball was held last Thursday in the New Richmond Community Commons gymnasium. Marc and Beth Lybeck led the pickleball demonstration. It was a hands-on demonstration, which showed how quickly and easily the basics of the game can be learned. Lybeck said he hadn't heard of pickleball until a year ago. He said business clients who wintered down south told him about the new game.
In terms of competitive progress, the St. Croix Central girls basketball team took a large step forward against Elmwood. The Panthers nearly notched their first win of the season on Thursday. They took Elmwood, which owns an 8-5 record, to the final minute before the Raiders hit several clutch free throws. The result stands as a 43-36 loss for the Panthers, but in terms of progress, this game offered many positive signs. The progress couldn't have come at a better time. The Panthers are scheduled to play the two teams directly in front of them in the Dunn-St.