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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Winning the majority of their basketball games is relatively new for the Somerset boys basketball program. Being clear favorites in some of their games, and handling the role of being favored, is something the Spartans are still learning. They improved in that capacity in their two games last week, wins over St. Croix Central and Osceola. The two wins put the Spartans at 10-4 this season. The last time the Spartans were double-digit winners in a season, the current Spartans were in elementary school.
Two resounding examples of the value of discipline were displayed by the Somerset hockey team last week. Being undisciplined caused the Spartans to suffer their first Middle Border Conference defeat of the season, a 4-1 setback on their home ice against Amery last Thursday. That caused a new set of rules to be put in place for the team for undisciplined play. The changes had a clear impact, as the Spartans knocked off Chippewa Falls 5-4 on Saturday. The Spartans are hoping to carry the disciplined play into this week's games.
The battle for the Middle Border Conference girls basketball lead looked like it would fall in Somerset's favor. Then Durand put together a fourth quarter comeback that buried the Spartans like an avalanche. Somerset took a 28-20 lead into the fourth quarter last Tuesday, but Durand outscored the Spartans 19-3 in the fourth quarter to earn the 39-31 win. With the win Durand stands alone at the top of the MBC standings, with Somerset falling into a second place tie with New Richmond. Durand was led by powerful post player Lexi Harmon, who finished with 17 points.
After seeing very few rewards for their efforts all season, the St. Croix Central girls finally have a win to celebrate. The Panthers notched their first basketball victory of the 2011-12 season last Tuesday when they defeated Spring Valley 48-44. On Friday the Panthers nearly made it two straight wins. They kept the pressure on Glenwood City but couldn't recapture the lead, losing to the Hilltoppers 45-41. The win on Tuesday was validation for the effort the young Panther team has put forth all season.
All the pieces but one are in place for the St. Croix Central boys basketball team. The Panthers have been playing defense with impressive intensity. Their rebounding has become a team effort. They are creating the shots they need to be a successful offense. The final piece that's missing is shooting accuracy. The Panthers struggled to hit shots in what were two otherwise sharp performances last week. The Panthers jumped out to a 12-6 lead at Somerset last Tuesday. But they couldn't maintain that offensive production level, losing to the Spartans 50-34.
Ellsworth is the prohibitive favorite to win this Saturday's Middle Border Conference wrestling tournament. Somerset's wrestling team has the belief that it will be one of the teams competing for second place in this year's tournament, which will be held at Durand High School. "I think we're capable of getting second; third for sure," said Somerset coach Mitch Flandrick. The Spartans will have a new lineup for Saturday's tournament. Bobby LeRoy, Austin Bushinger and Haydon Dvorak will be among the Spartans moving to new weights for the weekend.
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.