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 rivalry is back. The Somerset boys basketball team gave four-time defending Middle Border Conference champion New Richmond all it could handle last Friday. The Spartans battled New Richmond to the final seconds before the Tigers managed to pull out a 48-45 win. The game had everything you'd want from a rivalry. With both student fan sections making a huge amount of noise, the game lived up to that level of excitement.
You might notice New Richmond boys hockey teams heading behind the team bench after each of their shifts on the ice. This is part of a new instant discipline program installed by the Tiger coaches to get players to recognize the consequences of their lack of discipline during their shifts. The new rules appear to be having a positive impact for the Tigers. The rules were put in place on the team's bus ride to Rice Lake last Tuesday.
The New Richmond Invitational was the perfect opportunity for the young Tiger wrestling team to get badly needed mat experience. The Tigers placed third in the team competition in the 43rd annual NRI last Saturday. The Tigers did get one individual championship, with junior Aaron Daul earning the title at 145 pounds. Tiger coach Mark Neumann was most excited about the opportunity the new wrestlers on the Tiger squad received through this tournament. There are 13 Tigers on the roster who never wrestled at any level before this season.
The drought between New Richmond Invitational championships is over for the St. Croix Central wrestling team. The Panthers earned their second NRI championship in the 43 years of the tournament, riding four individual championships to the 2012 team title. The last time the Panthers were champions at the New Richmond Invitational was in 1993. Earning NRI individual championships for the Panthers were Adam Lewis, Carl Moll, Matt Smith and Marcus Malecek. Malecek had another reason to celebrate. His win in the second round of the tournament was the 100th varsity win of his career.
Winning three championships just scratches the surface of the success for the Somerset wrestling team in the New Richmond Invitational on Saturday. Senior Haydon Dvorak tore through the competition to win the 182-pound title.
Last week's 8-1 win over Baldwin-Woodville put the Somerset hockey team in a position they've never held before in the Middle Border Conference. They are in control. The Spartans stand alone at 2-0 in the MBC, with wins over B-W and New Richmond to their credit. In the six-game MBC schedule, the Spartans may be in their best position ever to win a conference title. "We're in the driver's seat," said Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson.
In both of its games against Middle Border Conference opponents last week, the St. Croix Central girls basketball team played evenly with its opponent through the first half. But the third quarter chasm that has swallowed up the Panthers all season bit them again in both games. The Panthers dropped to 0-9 for the season with losses to Amery and Baldwin-Woodville. Last Tuesday the Panthers trailed Amery 23-20 at halftime. The Panthers scored just three points in the third quarter, which allowed Amery to pull away for a 46-32 win. The pattern was nearly identical last Thursday.
It's hard to gauge how much improvement the St. Croix Central boys basketball team made over the holiday break because their first two games of 2012 were against conference leaders. The Panthers christened 2012 with a game at Prescott, which at the time was the co-leader in the Middle Border Conference. Prescott scored a 63-31 win. On Friday the Panthers moved back to Dunn-St. Croix Conference action, facing D-SC leader Colfax.
The state's second-ranked girls hockey team, Hayward, earned a 5-0 win in New Richmond last Tuesday. But the Hurricanes had to work for everything they got against the Tigers. Hayward put 40 shots on goal, but the Tigers did their best to prevent Hayward from getting high quality shots. The Tigers packed their defense in around goalie Baily Lund, forcing Hayward to shoot from tougher angles. The Tiger forward and defensemen also blocked a number of shots with their legs and bodies during the game. Hayward outshot the Tigers 14-3 in the first period, but the Hurricanes scored just once.
You can bet the Somerset girls basketball team is happy to be done playing Minnesota opponents for the season. The ambitious non-conference schedule has brought some painful lessons for the Spartans, particularly in their four games against Minnesota opponents.