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Spartans win first Middle Border Conference championship

The Somerset boys basketball team is a conference champion, for the first time in more than a decade.

The Spartans won in front of a large home crowd last Tuesday, 68-57, to lock up a share of the Middle Border Conference championship. The Spartans tie Prescott at 13-1 for the MBC title.

Ironically, Somerset and Prescott tied the last time the Spartans won a conference championship. That happened in the 1999-2000 season when Somerset and Prescott tied with 11-5 records for the Dunn-St. Croix Conference title. That was the second title in Somerset program history. The first conference title was won by Somerset in 1975 in the Upper St. Croix Valley Conference.

This year’s Spartans have been unstoppable over the second half of the season. The win over Amery raised the Spartans’ record to 19-2.

Somerset coach Brent Larson, who wins his first conference championship for the Spartans, said the turning point of the season was Somerset’s dramatic 67-61 comeback win at Baldwin-Woodville. The Spartans have won 10 straight games since then. It was a challenging stretch, including five Spartan wins in one eight-day stretch. 

Larson was sure to credit Amery for putting up in an excellent battle in last Tuesday’s game.

“Amery played well. We had a hard time defending their ball screens,” Larson said.

Amery led 14-12 after the opening quarter and the Spartans were ahead 29-26 at halftime.  Amery was able to tie the score early in the third quarter before the Spartans were able to build some breathing room.

Amery had no way to stop Somerset standout center Gaelin Elmore. Elmore hit 13-20 shots from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line to finish with 33 points. He also produced a game-high 11 rebounds.

Spartan guard Jack Emmert had an efficient offensive game. He hit 6-9 shots from the field and 9-11 from the line to total 21 points. His five assists also topped the team.

With a conference championship already in hand, the Spartans now set out to see what else can be accomplished this season. The Spartans are the number one seed in the WIAA Division 3 regional. They drew a bye in the opening round of play on Tuesday. The Spartans will play at home this Friday in the second round of regionals, facing the winner of Tuesday’s game between #8 St. Croix Falls and #9 Hayward.

“The final exam (for the season) is the tournament,” Larson said. “I hope we have some good things left."