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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A frantic fourth quarter comeback by the Somerset girls basketball team last Thursday fell one point short. Somerset trailed against Ellsworth 52-38 heading into the fourth quarter on Thursday. The Spartans went to a full-court press, playing five guards for most of the fourth quarter. They were able to tie the score, but could never get the lead. Ellsworth was able to pull out a 60-59 win, delivering the Spartans' first Middle Border Conference loss of the season. The Spartans fell behind immediately and were already facing a double-digit deficit in the first quarter.
There is momentum building in the St. Croix Central wrestling team. The Panthers went to Westby on Saturday and took second place in the Westby Invitational, winning four of their five matches. That came two days after the Panthers put up a good fight in a 41-21 loss to Dunn-St. Croix Conference leader Boyceville. Central won six of the matches wrestled at Boyceville on Thursday. They don't quite have the experience yet to go toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs, but they are closer than the 41-21 score might indicate. "We were in the ballpark with Boyceville," said Central coach Brad Holzer.
It has been a trying stretch for the Somerset wrestling team, on and off the mat. The team was shocked last week when four wrestlers, including three established starters, decided to leave the team. They gave the reason of wanting to concentrate on other sports. This left an already young team now positioned as one of the youngest squads in the Middle Border Conference. The timing wasn't good for the Spartans either. They had to travel to Amery to face a Warrior lineup packed with experienced wrestlers.
When four Somerset seniors violated the school athletic code last week, it meant those players were off the team for the remainder of the boys basketball season. This left the Spartans in a position where they are now the youngest and least experienced team in the Middle Border Conference. Somerset coach Brent Larson said the situation "is almost like a new season." While the Spartans are starting over, they aren't giving up. Last Tuesday's game against Spooner was the first game for the Spartans with their new lineup.
The Somerset hockey team is 6-2 in its past eight games and the Spartans carry an 8-5-1 record for the season. This Thursday and Saturday the Spartans will see if they can continue their success against two of their oldest rivals. The Spartans will be playing at New Richmond on Thursday and at Hudson on Saturday. The Spartans lost to New Richmond by a 4-1 score the first time the teams met. The Spartans are hoping they can keep their penalty total down after penalties hurt them severely in the first meeting. Hudson has a 3-10 record this season.
In the 41 years of the New Richmond Invitational, rarely has the Tiger wrestling team performed so well. The Tigers won individual championships in seven of the 14 weight classes to earn the team title for the 2010 NRI. The Tigers finished the tournament with 260.5 team points. Clear Lake ended up in second place, with 237 points. Winning individual titles for the Tigers were Aaron Daul, Abe Anderson, Charlie Gartner, Cody Chouinard, Grant Nelson, Jorden Aufderhar and Joel Neumann. "It was an awesome day for the kids," said Tiger coach Mark Neumann.
Wow. That's the best way to describe how the St. Croix Central boys played in the first half of Monday's home game against Ellsworth. Flawless. Unselfish. Disciplined. Those words would all work too. The Panthers built an 18-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game and two minutes into the second quarter the lead stood at 31-4. From there on Panther coach Mike Fern substituted liberally. The Panthers were able to finish with a 69-39 win over their Middle Border Conference opponent. After the previous two games, Fern was looking for more defensive energy from the Panthers on Monday.
Getting five wrestlers into the finals helped the St. Croix Central wrestling team build up enough team points to place third in the 2010 New Richmond Invitational on Saturday. The Panthers were able to collect 168.5 team points, finishing behind New Richmond and Clear Lake. Osceola was fourth with 163.5 points. Reaching the finals for the Panthers were Alex Halvorson at 119 pounds, Carl Moll at 135, Matt Smith at 152, Cody Nyhagen at 160 and Marcus Malacek at 171.
The New Richmond boys hockey team beat Amery 8-2. Earlier in the season Amery trampled Rice Lake 9-3. So when New Richmond played at Rice Lake at last Tuesday, it would have been logical to expect a one-sided contest. It didn't pan out that way, however. New Richmond got a power play goal midway through the first period, then never scored again. The game stretched into overtime and ended in a 1-1 tie. The Tigers were able to generate 38 shots in the game. Coach Adam Swanda said total shots didn't equate to good scoring chances. "They weren't threatening shots," Swanda said.
At the quarter pole in the Middle Border Conference boys basketball race, little has been decided. Two upstart teams, Amery and Durand, are the early pacesetters. New Richmond is among several teams packed in the middle and each of them are looking for an opportunity to make their break. If the Tigers do start making a charge in the MBC race, Friday's win at Prescott could be the propelling point. The Tigers won 44-37 for their first road victory of the season. The Tigers stand at 2-2 in the MBC following Friday's win.