It has been a long time since the New Richmond boys basketball team won a road game in the WIAA playoffs.
The last time was in 1997, when the Tigers advanced to the WIAA state tournament. So there was some incentive when the boys basketball team went to Sparta for the opener in the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament last Tuesday. The Tigers played with fire, feeling like they'd been wronged in the WIAA seeding process. The Tigers took the lead midway through the first half and never let go, defeating Sparta 55-45.
In the second round of WIAA regionals the Tigers played at La Crosse Central, a team considered among the best in the state, regardless of division. The Tigers led 13-12 midway through the first half, but Central then put the clamps on the Tigers, charging away for a 69-29 victory. The loss ends the Tigers' season with a 10-14 record.
The Tigers were seeded ninth in the bracket, seeded below Sparta, even though the Tigers had five more wins than Sparta. The Tigers felt the seeding robbed them of a chance for a home playoff game.
"We posed that as an opportunity to make a statement," Tiger coach Rick Montreal said of the lack of respect the Tigers received in the seeding meeting.
Both teams were cautious in the early going, with the score tied 13-13 midway through the first half. The Tigers then scored the final 12 points of the first half to lead 25-13. Sparta tried to come back, cutting the margin to eight at halftime, 25-17.
The Tigers kept the game under control in the second half, with Sparta's best run cutting the lead to 46-39. Defense was at the heart of the Tigers' success.
"We frustrated the hell out of them," Montreal said. "Joey (Kidder) and Blake (Getschel) gave their top players fits."
Another area the Tigers dominated was rebounding, grabbing 40 boards during the game. Kidder and Getschel both finished with double-doubles. Kidder ended with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Getschel posted 12 in both categories. Cole Effertz also supplied eight rebounds and 11 points.
The Tigers' strong start at La Crosse Central was encouraging. Then the Tigers saw the ferocity of the Central squad. After the Tigers led 13-12, Central clamped on a 1-3-1 trap that caused the Tigers all kinds of misery. Central scored the final 26 points of the half to lead 38-13 at the break.
Kidder and Ryan Kling led the Tigers with six points apiece at Central.
There are four seniors graduating from the Tiger roster (Getschel, Austin Raymond, Cale Anderson and John Earley). The freshman team won 20 games and the JV team won 12 games. Montreal said the competition begins now for varsity playing time next season.
"I don't think there's much pre-determined," Montreal said about playing time for next season. "I think this offseason will be fun to see how we develop."