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Somerset boys basketball opens playoffs Tuesday at Barron

Somerset's James Schachtner (43) awaits a pass from a teammate during the Spartans' recent game against New Richmond. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The Somerset boys basketball team got a clear indication that it has improved this season when the Spartans hosted Amery last Monday.

Somerset lost in double-overtime earlier this season when the Spartans played at Amery. In Monday's game, the Spartans took a lead in the first half and they maintained a comfortable cushion to defeat the Warriors, 52-39.

The Spartans finished their regular season schedule last Thursday with a game at Ellsworth, losing to the Panthers 83-57.

Somerset was scheduled to begin the WIAA Division 3 regional tournament series on Tuesday with a game at Barron. Somerset went into Tuesday's game as the ninth seed and Barron was the eighth seed. When these teams played early in the season, Somerset won, 49-31. The winner of Tuesday's game will advance to the regional semifinals, where they will play at top-seeded Prescott on Friday at 7 p.m.

Somerset finished the Middle Border Conference schedule in sixth place in the MBC standings with a 3-11 record. The Spartans ended the regular season with a 6-16 overall mark. The Spartans started the season 4-4, then went on an extended cold snap before getting wins over Baldwin-Woodville and Amery in the second round of MBC games.

The Spartans are using the win over Amery as the illustration of their progress. Somerset coach Taylor Germain said the team had a specific plan for the game, involving limiting their turnovers and not allowing Amery to get easy hoops off offensive rebounds.

"We felt we really improved and that game showed it," Germain said. "That's a credit to the hard work of the kids. They stuck together as a group. That's one of our strengths. We are a team."

Somerset's offense was led by sophomore Ty Madden, who continued to elevate his play, scoring 20 points. Junior guard Will Piletich has reignited his offensive game, finishing with 10 points. The Spartans scored from inside and outside, including hitting eight three-pointers, four coming from Madden.

This game was a rarity because the Spartans played a zone defense. Germain said it was the first time the team has played a zone for a full game all season. This took away Amery's interior scoring. And with the quickness the Spartans have at guard, every Amery perimeter shot was challenged.

Thursday's game was the second time the Spartans faced Ellsworth in two weeks. And just like the first meeting, this game was close throughout the first half. And just like the first meeting, Ellsworth took off early in the second half. The score at halftime in Thursday's game was 39-31.

Germain said it might have been safer if the Spartans had played a zone defense against Ellsworth, but he wasn't looking to play it safe.

"I wanted to man up and see what happens," he said.

Madden led the Spartans with 19 points at Ellsworth and Piletich finished with 11 points.

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 more than 30 years.

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