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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By qualifying four wrestlers for the 2012 WIAA State Championships, the Somerset wrestling team has already broken new ground. The Spartans are hoping to add several more accomplishments when they wrestle in the state championships, which begin today (Thursday) at the Kohl Center in Madison. Seniors Haydon Dvorak and Austin Bushinger and juniors Bobby LeRoy and Gabe Flandrick qualified for state with their performances at the Osceola Division 2 sectional meet on Saturday. This is the first time Somerset has qualified four wrestlers for the state wrestling tournament.
One more win. That's all the 2011-12 season boils down to for the New Richmond boys basketball team. The Tigers host Osceola this Thursday. If the Tigers win, they guarantee themselves a share of the Middle Border Conference title. This would be the fifth straight season where the Tigers finished as MBC champions. Tiger coach Rick Montreal said the players, especially the seniors, have been on a season-long mission to continue the streak of conference championships.
Drawing Somerset as an opponent only heightened the excitement for the New Richmond boys hockey team as the Tigers opened the WIAA playoffs on Thursday night. The intensity of the rivalry resulted in 16 penalties. The strength of the Tigers' penalty killing unit proved to be a major difference as New Richmond scored a 4-0 win, ending Somerset's season. The win moved the Tigers into Tuesday's sectional semifinal game against Hudson. The winner of Tuesday's game will play in the sectional championship game, which will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Amery Ice Arena.
St. Croix Central will be taking the largest group of wrestlers to the WIAA state meet in a quarter century. Five Panther wrestlers qualified for the 2012 WIAA State Wrestling Championships with their performance at the Osceola Division 2 sectional meet on Saturday. This is the largest group of state qualifiers for the Panthers since 1989, when the Panthers finished in second place in the WIAA team competition. Advancing to the 2012 state meet for the Panthers are Adam Lewis, Cody Nyhagen, Kyle Aaby, Marcus Malecek and Lauden Wood.
St. Croix Central's girls certainly didn't look like a one-win team when they played at Osceola last Tuesday. The Panthers trailed by one point at halftime against a quality Osceola squad. In the second half the Chieftains were able to inch ahead of the Panthers, finishing with a 49-35 win. Central used a ball-hawking defense to force Osceola into numerous turnovers in the first half. "We had Osceola out of its element," said Central coach Luke Fritsche. The Panthers were alert offensively, taking advantage of any opening they could find against the Chieftains.
Two overtime games in three days proved to be too much for the New Richmond girls basketball team. Last Tuesday the Tigers were able to pull out a 44-43 overtime win in an extremely physical game at Menomonie. Two nights later the Tigers had their game stretch into overtime again, this time against Amery. The Tigers' were spent after the two physically challenging games and Amery was able to escape with a 51-46 win. That loss would prove to be incredibly costly. Durand, the Middle Border Conference leader, was also knocked off last Thursday, losing to Prescott 35-34.
The 15 wins earned by the Somerset hockey team is the third highest total in team history. The Spartans were hoping to increase that total in the WIAA playoffs, but their playoff run was stopped in last Thursday's regional final in New Richmond. The Spartans generated 22 shots, including several close calls in a frantic third period, but they couldn't find a way to score. Their season ended with a 4-0 loss to New Richmond. Somerset coach Dan Gilkerson said the team took the "bend but don't break" approach to defending New Richmond. That worked for most of the game.
The detour away from their usual winning ways appears to be over for the Somerset girls basketball team. The Spartans got turned back in the right direction last Thursday, earning a 41-30 win over Ellsworth. The win keeps the Spartans in a tie for third place in the Middle Border Conference standings. They are tied with Prescott, which pulled off a major surprise, beating MBC leader Durand on Thursday, 35-34. This Friday the Spartans will get their shot at the MBC leader.
Between three-point shooting and free throw shooting, the Somerset boys basketball team looked like it was holding target practice in Friday's 64-47 win over Amery. The win lifts Somerset's Middle Border Conference record to 7-6. The Spartans complete their regular season this Thursday, when they compete at Durand. The WIAA Division 3 sectional seeding meeting was held this weekend. Because the Spartans went undefeated against teams in their sectional bracket, they received the second seed in the section.
The St. Croix Central boys basketball team has elevated its play to where it is competitive in most games. Now, as the season wanes, the Panthers are hoping to take one more step in their basketball genesis. Last week the Panthers were able to play on even footing for much of their games against Boyceville and Elmwood. In the Panthers' 45-30 loss to Boyceville, Central led for a large part of the first half. That included most of the second quarter, when neither team was able to score for several minutes.