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 game between Somerset and St. Croix Central was looked at as a measuring stick for both boys basketball teams. And after Central knocked top-seeded Somerset out of the boys basketball regionals last winter, there was more than a little bit of emotion involved in last Tuesday's game too. Somerset was the team that had the edge early, grabbing a 13-4 lead and holding the lead until late in the third quarter.
The Somerset hockey team had leads in its back-to-back games last Thursday, but the Spartans couldn't hang onto the lead in either game. On Friday the Spartans lost 4-3 to Tomahawk in overtime. The night before the Spartans had lost to River Falls by a 6-4 score. Against Tomahawk, Spartan coach Dan Gilkerson tried to break up his top line of Brock Montpetit, Matt Johnson and Nick Widing to try getting more balanced scoring. That move didn't work, with the Spartans struggling through the first period.
Some towns are "hockey towns" and you expect the high school teams from those towns to be strong every year. Hudson and Hayward are towns that have earned that title with significant hockey success for more than a decade. So when the boys hockey teams from Hudson and Hayward played at New Richmond last week, the Tigers knew they'd be getting two battles. The Tigers survived both battles, running their unbeaten 2005-06 record to 5-0. The Tigers beat Hudson 3-2 last Thursday after overwhelming Hayward 5-0 last Tuesday.
Every game for the New Richmond girls hockey team this season has been close, until last Thursday. The Tigers fell to 2-4-1 for the season when they lost on their home ice to Altoona by a 5-0 score. Altoona scored on the first shift of the game. A Tiger defenseman got caught out of position, opening up a 2-on-1 break for Altoona. The Rails scored on the opportunity, 52 seconds into the game. That was the only scoring of the first period, but the game was decided in the second period.
Things finally fell right for the Somerset boys basketball team. The Spartans have struggled to put the pieces of their game together as they lost their first four games of the season. In last Tuesday's game against Spooner, the Spartans played in unison and put away the Rails, 58-42 for their first win of the 2005-06 season. In every aspect of the game the Spartans showed improvement against Spooner, but it was defense that was the backbone of their success. Two days earlier, Spooner guard Ben Johnson had torched Cumberland with 30 points.
Any wrestling team in western Wisconsin would have difficulty matching the strength of schedule that the New Richmond wrestling team faced last week. In a double-dual meet at Baldwin-Woodville last Tuesday, the Tigers tangled with Hudson and Glenwood City. Last Thursday the Tigers wrestled a dual match at Ellsworth. All three matches ended as losses for the Tigers. "Glenwood City will be one of the favorites in the Dunn-St. Croix and Hudson will win the Big Rivers," said New Richmond coach Mark Neumann.
The New Richmond boys basketball team jumped out to a double-digit first quarter lead and was never seriously threatened in beating Ellsworth 51-31 last Friday. This was New Richmond's first win in Middle Border Conference play this season. The two MBC teams that have beaten New Richmond, Durand and Prescott, currently share the MBC lead with 3-0 records. Tough, full-court pressure by the Tigers was able to create a number of turnovers early in the game. The Tigers were quick to convert those turnovers into points, taking a 16-4 lead by the end of the quarter.
The Somerset boys basketball team played in a wildly uptempo game and a tough, defensive minded game last week. Neither of the tempos was a style that got the Spartans into the win column. They were beaten at Grantsburg 76-67 last Tuesday before losing 41-27 at Baldwin-Woodville last Friday. The game at Grantsburg featured a career-high 29 points from Somerset senior Brett Schreiner. Grantsburg is a team with outstanding guards, but limited experience in the post.
The St. Croix Central girls basketball team is near the top level of the Dunn-St. Croix Conference. To give themselves a chance to climb higher in the conference standings, the Panthers need to find ways to perform better against the other top conference contenders. Last Thursday the Panthers struggled from the outset, losing 59-36 to Mondovi. The loss drops the Panthers to 5-2 in conference play, two games behind Colfax. Mondovi jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter and the Buffaloes extended the lead to 31-16 at halftime.
The pressure of opposing full-court defenses is getting to the New Richmond girls basketball team. The Tigers ended last week with a 0-4 record for the season, following losses to Stillwater and Prescott. If there has been one consistent theme in the four losses this season, it has been turnovers. The Tigers are averaging nearly 30 turnovers per game.