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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One period at a time, the Somerset hockey team is getting better. And it is starting to show in the Spartans' win column. The Spartans took third place in the Spooner holiday tournament last week, winning two of their three games. They opened the tournament with a 7-1 win over Ashland. In the semifinals the Spartans lost to a strong Northland Pines team 4-2. In the third place game the Spartans took charge immediately to score a 7-0 win over Spooner. The results of the tournament raise the Spartans' season record to 5-5-1.
Playing in the Rice Lake holiday tournament was an opportunity for the Somerset boys basketball team to prove it could compete. The Spartans not only competed, they earned their first win of the season in a 66-62 decision over Ashland last Wednesday. In the first round of the tournament the Spartans played a close game with Cumberland, before losing 59-47. The biggest news for the Spartans out of the tournament is they have new players stepping up to help with the scoring, which was the team's biggest need. In the win over Ashland, junior Jacob Green came out of nowhere to score 21 points.
The battle of unbeaten, state-ranked teams wasn't nearly the skirmish everyone anticipated last Tuesday. The New Richmond and Rice Lake boys were bunched together in the WSN/WBCA Division 2 state rankings last week, with the Tigers ranked fifth and the Warriors ranked sixth. The Tigers took charge of Tuesday's game early and kept it well under control the rest of the way, notching a 57-48 win. This makes the Tigers 7-0 as they complete the 2010 portion of their schedule. Rice Lake fell to 5-1. The Tigers were rock solid through large portions of the game.
Lesson learned. The New Richmond boys hockey team learned that few teams can get away with starting slowly against state-ranked teams. And currently, the Tigers aren't one of those teams. The Tigers gave up four goals in the first period last Tuesday in an 8-2 loss to Eau Claire Memorial, which began the week as the second ranked team in the state. On Thursday the Tigers went to Superior to make up the Dec. 11 postponement.
Somerset's hockey team rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to earn a tie against Burnett County last Tuesday, 5-5. With the tie the Spartans now stand at 3-4-1. This Monday through Wednesday the Spartans were scheduled to play in a tournament in Spooner. The tie against Burnett County was a reward of sorts for the Spartans. Coach Dan Gilkerson told the team he was looking for a consistent effort throughout the game.
The St. Croix Central wrestling team goes into this week's 2010 Northern Badger Invitational with high hopes, after winning all five of its matches in a tournament at Independence last Thursday. The tournament at Independence was an attempt to make up the La Crosse Logan Invitational, which was a casualty of the Dec. 11 blizzard. The field for the tournament wasn't overly strong because two teams that had entered the tournament, Chippewa Falls and Melrose-Mindoro, found they were already at the maximum for allowable tournaments in a season.
Beating a Big Rivers Conference team is always a reason to celebrate and it put the Somerset girls basketball team into a festive mood as the Spartans headed into their holiday break. The Spartans showed poise in beating River Falls 41-36 in Somerset last Tuesday. The win raises Somerset's record to 3-2 for the 2010 portion of the Spartans' schedule. The loss leaves River Falls with a 3-4 overall record. Both teams started slowly in last Tuesday's game, with four minutes elapsed before either team scored. Once the Spartans did score, the points came in a wave.
Two wins and some valuable experience were the reward for the Somerset wrestling team for their efforts in a quadrangular meet in Glenwood City last Tuesday. The Spartans scored wins over Unity and Baldwin-Woodville, but were beaten by a sturdy Glenwood City team. The night started with the Spartans scoring a 37-29 win over an improved Unity team. The Spartans got pins from Gabe Flandrick, Austin Bushinger and Bobby LeRoy in the win. The one surprise was a loss by pin taken by Spartan heavyweight Jeremy Kelly. Apparently, you don't want to make Kelly angry.
The New Richmond girls hockey team learned last Tuesday how much one elite level player can affect a game. Onalaska is one of the most improved teams in the state this year, largely due to freshman Theresa Knutson. She accounted for five goals and an assist as Onalaska beat the Tigers 7-2 last Tuesday. An elite-level skater can have a larger impact in girls hockey because they can't be checked off the puck.
The third straight undefeated opponent faced by the St. Croix Central girls basketball team showed that the Panthers still have room to improve. The Panthers went into the string of games against unbeaten opponents without a loss too. But they lost two of those three games. The second loss came last Tuesday against Prescott, 48-37. In Tuesday's loss the Panthers' offense was streaky. Prescott led 12-4 after the first quarter, before the Panthers charged back to tie the score at 15-15 in the second quarter.