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Boys Hoops: Spartans step up, Panthers step back

Somerset guard Trae Kreibich (right) drives around a St. Croix Falls defender during last Thursday's Spartan victory. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The Somerset boys basketball team has grown up.

The Spartans showed Thursday that they are no longer a young team prone to mistakes of inexperience. The Spartans were in command from start to finish against St. Croix Falls, defeating the Saints 71-60 on the Spartans’ home court.

A player who has witnessed the Spartans’ growth first-hand is senior Will Piletich, who has been a part of the Spartan varsity team since his freshman season. His game knowledge is a big piece of the progress the Spartans have made the past few seasons. As a freshman, he was moved to point guard. The coaches saw before this season that the team had better depth at guard than in the post, so they asked Piletich to become a post player.

“He’s our most versatile player,” said Somerset coach Taylor Germain. “He always wants to do what’s best for the team. He’s very coachable, very selfless.”

Thursday’s win raises the Spartans’ record to 4-5. The Spartans are 1-2 in the Middle Border Conference, but the Spartans share a belief that they are a team on the rise.

“In conference, we can compete for the top spots if we continue working together,” Piletich said. “We’ve had a lot of guys step up. We’re molding together pretty nice.”

The Spartans stepped up early and often in Thursday’s win. Somerset drained nine 3-pointers in the first half. The red-hot shooting allowed the Spartans to build a 25-4 lead. The Spartans’ lead grew as large as 26 points at 33-7. At halftime, Somerset’s lead stood at 41-22.

St. Croix Falls made a charge in the second half, getting as close as six points at 55-49. Somerset answered with a 9-1 run to rebuild its lead.

Somerset featured excellent balance in the scoring column, led by senior Brennan Sheridan with 14 points. Ty Madden finished with 11 points and Mason Cook with 10. Piletich and Trae Kreibich both scored nine points.

The Spartans will attempt to climb the MBC standings, starting next Tuesday with a home game against Ellsworth and Friday at home against Amery.

SCC boys basketball

The St. Croix Central boys basketball team has sought challenges for its non-conference schedule.

That included a first-ever game against Hudson on Friday. Hudson’s enrollment is almost five times that of Central’s, but that didn’t faze the Panthers. Hudson finished the game with a 74-54 win, but the Panthers weren’t hanging their heads over the final result. Hudson now has a 6-3 overall record while the Panthers stand at 3-4. This was the Panthers’ first game since playing in the La Crosse holiday tournament over the break.

Central led six minutes into the game until Hudson went on an 8-0 run. The Panthers battled back to tie the score at 21-21, but Hudson used another 8-0 burst to take the lead for good. Hudson led 40-31 at halftime.

Senior Peyton Nogal led the Panthers with 24 points. He said he felt the Panthers played well in the first half. He said the play dropped off early in the second half, as Hudson used full-court pressure to force the Panthers into a number of turnovers. Nogal said he sees the team continuing to make strides in the right direction.

“The more ball reversals we get, the more we score,” he said about the offensive success. He pointed to the fact that the team is hitting more than 50 percent of its 2-point shots, but around 20 percent of its 3-point shots, on why it is important for the Panthers to continue taking the ball into the paint.

Central coach Zach Turpin said he sought out the game with the Raiders and he hopes Hudson will keep the Panthers on their schedule. Turpin said he was pleased with the Panthers’ half-court defense, but saw his team giving up far too many points in the transition game. He also like the team’s offensive effort, particularly in the first half.

“Spacing was a lot better. We’re getting more post touches. We’re rebounding better in the half-court,” Turpin said.

The Panthers play a pair of Middle Border Conference home games on Tuesday and Thursday, hosting Prescott on Tuesday and Ellsworth on Thursday.

The Panthers went to Elk Mound Monday, hoping to bounce back after a loss last Friday against Hudson. Instead, the Panthers left their defense at home, losing to the Mounders, 56-51. This leaves the Panthers with a 3-5 record, while Elk Mound improved to 4-6 with the win. Nogal scored 26 of the Panthers’ 51 points.

A big part of the game was Elk Mound being more aggressive at taking the ball into the paint. By beating Panther defenders from the dribble, it caused the Panther defense to scramble, resulting in numerous fouls. Elk Mound made 17 of 22 free throws, while the Panthers were just 1-for-2 from the line.

The lack of free throws was also a sign of the pedestrian style of offense played by the Panthers, with little movement toward the basket with the ball. But Turpin said the normally reliable Panther defense was the biggest surprise of the game.

“We played very poorly on defense, very soft. That’s what’s disappointing; for us to play that poorly is uncharacteristic,” he said. “They outworked us. That’s what it came down to.”

This loss is even more concerning because the Panthers play critical Middle Border Conference games Tuesday and Thursday.

The Panthers were further stymied on offense Monday by turning the ball over 20 times, one of their highest totals of the season.

New Richmond boys basketball

Last season, the Altoona tournament may have been the low point for the New Richmond boys basketball team. A lot has changed in one year’s time.

On Friday and Saturday, the Tigers put together two top-quality efforts in winning games against Bloomer and Medford. On Saturday the Tigers topped Medford, 65-58.

Junior Jack Stuedemann hit a 3-pointer on the Tigers’ opening possession of the game and they never trailed. By halftime the Tigers had built a 15-point lead and they were never seriously threatened in the second half.

The Bloomer game was a played at a methodical pace. Saturday’s game was played in a more uptempo style and the Tigers showed they have the talent to play comfortably at either pace.

The Tiger coaches scouted Medford and they were ready for the Raiders’ full-court pressure. The Tigers were more athletic and handled the press readily. The Tigers were also the taller team and they were able to take advantage of height mismatches in the paint.

Four Tigers scored in double figures, led by Stuedemann with 17 points. Joey Kidder finished with 13, C.J. Campbell 11 and Drew Momchilovich 10.

The offense is coming on steadily for the Tigers, but defense is the staple of the team’s success. They held Medford to 16 points in the first half.

“They couldn’t generate anything against our half court defense,” Montreal said of the first half success.

Kidder played another strong floor game, leading the Tigers in rebounds, assists and steals.

The win raises the Tigers’ season record to 6-3. The Tigers’ next game is on Tuesday, Jan. 8, when they play at Baldwin-Woodville, followed by a game Friday at Menomonie.

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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