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 teams were tied with undefeated records at the top of the Middle Border Conference standings when last week began. When the week was over, New Richmond stood alone at the top of the conference standings. The Tigers are now 4-0 in MBC play and 9-0 overall after wins against Prescott and Ellsworth last week. The Tigers began last week ranked fourth in Division 2 in the wissports.net-WBCA Coaches Poll. Prescott gave the Tigers a thorough battle last Tuesday. The Tigers had only a five-point lead with 1:17 left.
Five New Richmond wrestlers earned individual championships, leading the Tigers to the team championship in the 2011 New Richmond Invitational on Saturday. The Tigers won the team championship with 247 points, compared to the 202 points for second place Clear Lake. Drawing as much attention as the wrestling was the comfortable space that was available for the tournament in the new NRHS gym. After decades of shoehorning three mats into the old high school gym, the new gym easily allowed for space for four mats.
Tiger senior goalie Kyle Frey stepped up with his best game of the season at an opportune time. Frey, who is battling classmate Patrick Hailey for the number one goalie role, earned the Tigers' first shutout of the season last Thursday at Baldwin-Woodville, 3-0. The Tigers are now 3-0 at the midway point of the Middle Border Conference season. The Tigers possess a 9-5 overall record. Shot totals reflect how much the Tigers dominated the first and third periods in Thursday's game at Baldwin. The Tigers outshot the Blackhawks 20-7 in the first period.
The Somerset girls basketball team wanted to show it should be considered a contender in the Middle Border Conference. The New Richmond girls now need to show they can compete with the top teams in the MBC. When New Richmond and Somerset met last Friday on the Spartans' home floor, one offense clicked and one offense fizzled.
St. Croix Central got five wrestlers to finals and two Panthers walked away as champions in the 2011 New Richmond Invitational on Saturday. Junior Matt Smith at 160 pounds and sophomore Cody Nyhagen at 152 pounds earned NRI championships. Placing second in their weight classes for the Panthers were Adam Lewis, Carl Moll and Marcus Malecek. Nyhagen was the scourge of the 152-pound class. Nyhagen manhandled all of his opponents, earning a pin in all five matches. This leaves his season record at 20-2. Smith's performance was almost identical.
The ability to win close games can often separate the upper level teams from the middle class. The St. Croix Central boys basketball team has found a way to win close games this season. The Panthers are now 6-3 and only one of their five wins would be remotely close to being called comfortable. The Panthers won all three of their games last week and the Panthers had to pull out all three victories late in the game. The week started with a 57-55 overtime win against Plum City last Tuesday. On Friday the Panthers pulled one out of the fire against Somerset, 53-50.
At times during its three games last week, the youth of the Somerset boys basketball team was painfully obvious. But there were also points where the Spartans showed signs of a team coming of age. Those signs were most clear on Friday, when the Spartans lost at St. Croix Central, 53-50. If there was any weariness from playing for the second night in a row, the Spartans didn't show it. They led for much of the game, before St. Croix Central forged ahead in the fourth quarter. Friday's game was one of the most complete performances the Spartans have logged this season.
The Somerset hockey team won once last week, but the Spartans didn't get the win they really wanted. The Spartans went to Baldwin last Tuesday and were surprised in a 5-4 loss to the Blackhawks. The Spartans did bounce back and win in front of their Parents' Night crowd on Friday, beating Spooner 7-2. The loss at Baldwin was a result of over confidence, in the opinion of Spartan coach Dan Gilkerson. "The guys were loose before the game, they thought they'd walk all over them," Gilkerson said. Instead, the Spartans took two penalties in the first 90 seconds of the game.
Two concussions and a frightening beanball in baseball last summer weren't going to scare off Kyle Miller. Miller lost nearly his entire junior basketball season because of the concussions. This year he has been back and playing a key role for the undefeated New Richmond boys basketball team. Miller has been the sixth man for the Tigers this season. He got to achieve one of his goals when he stepped into the starting lineup against Prescott last Tuesday when Dalton Sabby was out sick.
Overtimes have to be creeping into the dreams of the New Richmond girls hockey players. Or should we call them nightmares? The Tigers have now lost three games in overtimes this season, including both of their games last week. The Tigers lost to the Burnett County Blizzard 4-3 last Tuesday. The Tigers went to Hayward on Thursday and suffered a 7-6 overtime loss to the Hurricanes. Despite the 0-3 overtime record, Tiger coach Emily Howlett insists the team deserves a better fate. "We haven't played a bad overtime yet," Howlett said.