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Playoff win highlights progress of Somerset boys basketball

Somerset guard Trae Kreibich (15) looks at his passing options during the second half of the Spartans' win at Barron last Tuesday. Kreibich was one of three freshmen who were on the court for large portions of the second half. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Somerset senior Bennett Baillargeon (32) is shown making a strong move to the basket during the Spartans' win at Barron. Baillargeon provided eight pivotal points during the Spartans' second half comeback.2 / 2

The best indication that the Somerset boys basketball team is headed in the right direction came during the opening round of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs last Tuesday.

Somerset trailed by seven points several times in the second half of the game at Barron. In the final eight minutes, the Spartans went on a poised 18-4 run that pushed them ahead of the Bears, with Somerset finishing with a 57-48 victory.

That win moved Somerset into the path of four-time defending regional champion Prescott. The top-seeded Cardinals defeated Somerset 80-44 on Friday. Prescott would defeat St. Croix Central 59-56 on Saturday to win its fifth straight regional title.

Somerset finishes its season with a 7-17 record.

The win at Barron showed the maturing status of the young Somerset team. There were times during the second half when Somerset had three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on the court.

There were times during the second half where the Spartans looked in trouble, with the lead fluctuation between 7-10 points for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Spartan guard Brennan Sheridan scored with 8:10 remaining to start Somerset's large charge. That started an 18-4 Spartan run that turned a 42-35 deficit into a 53-46 advantage.

Somerset tied the score at 44-44 on a drive down the lane by Sheridan with 6:36 left. Freshman Melvin Medina Ortiz gave Somerset the 48-46 lead with a nice low post move with 2:02 remaining. Moments later, Ortiz stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for the layup. Thirty seconds later, Baillargeon completed a three-point play. In less than a minute, the tied game had turned into a seven-point Spartan lead.

The Spartans scored the first hoop of the night and never led again until the final minutes of the game. The Spartans were ice cold in their shooting in the first half, other than Madden. Somerset trailed 20-18 with five minutes left in the first half, with Madden scoring 14 of the Spartans' first 18 points. Madden finished with a team-high 23 points. Baillargeon scored eight points, all in the second half. Ortiz, Sheridan and Kreibich all finished with six points.

Somerset's defense also deserves some of the credit for the comeback. After trailing 25-20 at halftime, the Spartans outscored Barron 37-24 in the second half.

Somerset coach Taylor Germain said he was happy for Baillargeon, the only senior in the Spartans' regular varsity rotation.

"He deserves that," Germain said of Baillargeon's chance to enjoy a playoff win. "He's a good leader and a hard working kid."

The only Spartan who had previously played in a playoff win was junior point guard Will Piletich, who saw action two years ago when Somerset defeated Ellsworth in the playoffs.

In Friday's game, the Spartans were able to stay competitive through the first stage of the game, before Prescott began to expand the lead. The margin stood at 43-23 at halftime.

Germain said the experience of playing in games with amplified pressure like these playoff games will help the Spartans in their growth process.

Dave Newman

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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