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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The New Richmond girls basketball team is the only Middle Border Conference opponent who defeated MBC-leading Durand in the first half of the conference schedule. The Tigers are now 6-2 in MBC action. If they want to stay in the hunt for the conference title, they will need to defeat Durand again. The Tigers play at Durand this Thursday. Defense has been the Tigers' forte this season and the win over Durand was the finest example of their defensive capability.
One of the most anticipated St. Croix Central wrestling dual meets in decades lived up to its billing, when the Panthers locked up with Spring Valley for the Dunn-St. Croix dual championship last Thursday. Both teams were undefeated in duals and both were ranked in the top 10 in the state in their respective divisions. The heart-pounding action came down to the final weight, with Spring Valley edging out the Panthers, 29-25. The Central gym was packed with people, drawing wrestling fans from many other towns to see this showdown.
Tiger coach Mark Neumann was fretting heavily before the Tigers' wrestling match with Baldwin-Woodville last Thursday. The Tigers were without several veteran wrestlers for the match. Of the 17 wrestlers available, 10 were freshmen and three more were sophomores. The Tigers' lack of experience didn't hold them back. The Tigers strung together seven straight wins in the middle stages of the dual meet to produce a 54-19 win over the Blackhawks. "That surprised me," Coach Neumann said about the ease in which the Tigers won the match.
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.