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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If there's a team that appears overdue for a win, it's the Somerset girls basketball team. The Spartans finished with their second straight winless season in the Middle Border Conference on Friday. The Spartans surely have had their share of close calls however. The latest close call was on Friday, when the Spartans lost 33-28 at Amery. After trailing 26-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Spartans made a huge comeback.
New Richmond was the only team to put a loss on Osceola's otherwise perfect Middle Border Conference girls basketball season. So when the Chieftains came to New Richmond last Friday in the final round of the MBC season, Osceola's Ashlea Muckenhirn made sure the Tigers didn't strike down the Chieftains a second time. Muckenhirn was incredible, the best player on the court in every facet of the game. Her 35 points led the Chieftains to a 67-44 win over New Richmond. The Tiger girls kept the game close well into the fourth quarter.
A pair of Somerset sophomores will be representing the Spartans at the 2004 WIAA State Wrestling Championships. Tyler LeRoy and Justin Neumann both qualified for the 2004 state meet by finishing in third place in their weight classes at the WIAA Division 3 Somerset Sectional Tournament held Saturday. LeRoy qualified for state at 112 pounds and Neumann advances at 189 pounds. LeRoy beat two wrestlers who qualified for state last year to advance this year. In his opening round match, LeRoy faced Chris Treumper of Park Falls, who reached state last year.
If the St. Croix Central girls basketball team isn't residing in The Twilight Zone, the Panthers are at least in the same neighborhood. The Panthers finished the regular season with a six-game losing streak, falling in overtime to Spring Valley 52-47 last Thursday. Because of injuries and fouls, the Panthers played about 30 seconds of the overtime with four players. The Panthers led 14-11 at halftime. Then center Rachel Anderson injured her foot in the third quarter and was done for the game. That gave Spring Valley room to take the lead.
Senior Adam Delander has become one of the rare wrestlers who has qualified for the WIAA State Wrestling Championships four times in his career. He now hopes to join the elite group of wrestlers who've won more than one WIAA state championship. Delander won a state championship in 2002 and he is in great position to make a run at a second state title.
Two losses to Prescott, including one last Thursday, pushed Somerset down to the third seed in the WIAA Division 3 boys basketball regional. Spring Valley, fresh off knocking off previously undefeated Mondovi, earned the top seed in the regional. Prescott, which didn't have as strong a record as Somerset or St. Croix Central, moved up to the second seed with Somerset being seeded third and St. Croix Central fourth. By drawing the third seed, Somerset gets a tough opening opponent in Fall Creek, the sixth seed.
New Richmond's girls got much more of a battle than they were expecting when they played at Somerset Tuesday night. The Somerset girls, trying to get their first Middle Border Conference victory as a birthday present for coach Bill Powers, nearly upset the Tigers. Somerset trailed 17-16 after scoring the first hoop of the fourth quarter. The Tigers then went on a 9-2 run to pull away for a 34-23 win. This was an extremely loosely officiated game that allowed both teams to be extremely aggressive.
The WIAA girls hockey playoffs open next Tuesday and the New Richmond girls are primed. The Tigers will play at Hudson at 7 p.m. in the tournament opener next Tuesday, with the winner of that game qualifying for state. The loser of that game will get another chance to qualify for state, playing at Superior on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Tigers drew the third seed among the three teams in the sectional.
While a six-game losing streak may be eating at the confidence of the St. Croix Central girls basketball team, the Panthers still have the respect of other coaches. When the Division 3 regional seeding meeting was held over the weekend, the Panthers drew the fourth seed among the eight teams in the regional. This means the Panthers will open the tournament trail at home. That game will be played at 7 p.m. next Tuesday with Fall Creek as the opponent. Central coach Shannon Berg admitted she was a bit surprised at drawing the fourth seed, as were the Panther players.
If basketball games were only three quarters long, the Somerset girls basketball team would be a force in the Middle Border Conference. The fourth quarter, however, remains an immense roadblock for the Spartans. The Spartans have been close to the lead or in the lead late into the third quarter of several recent MBC games. That was the case again last Friday, when the Spartans and Prescott were tied 25-25 in the third quarter. Minutes earlier, Somerset had led 22-18. Prescott then scored the final six points of that quarter.