Starting last week, the New Richmond boys basketball team had three weeks remaining in its regular season. And in those three weeks, the Tigers set a goal of setting things right. There had been more moral victories than actual victories up to this point, and the Tigers wanted to put an ending to the season that was a more true indication of their ability.
The three weeks started out well. The Tigers went to St. Croix Central last Tuesday and played a gritty game, showing more determination than the Panthers. And an extra ounce of determination may have been the difference as the Tigers held off the Panthers, 53-50.
On Friday, the Tigers athleticism kicked into overdrive. The Tigers played a marvelous defensive effort and the offense eventually rose to that level as the Tigers conquered Amery, 59-34. The two wins raise the Tigers to 6-4 in the Middle Border Conference, tying them with St. Croix Central for third place in the standings.
The Tigers continue their MBC schedule this Thursday with a game at Baldwin-Woodville. The Tigers play at home next Tuesday against Ellsworth.
If there can be a turning point this late in a season, last Tuesday's win at Central may be that point for the Tigers. The Tigers trailed by 10 points midway through the first half. The Tigers decided that was enough. The defensive intensity skyrocketed, especially toward Central leading scorer Peyton Nogal. By halftime, Central's lead was down to one point.
Both teams tried for the knockout early in the second half. The Tigers jumped ahead 29-26. Then Central scored 11 straight points. Again, the Tigers fought back. They tied the score with 5:01 left on a pair of free throws from Ryan Kling. Drew Momchilovich scored a three-point play with two minutes left to make the lead 49-46. Cole Effertz and Kling hit pairs of free throws to keep the lead. Central had two shots in the final 10 seconds of the game, but neither fell and the Tigers had their win.
The Tigers worked hard to get shots in the paint at Central. Senior center Blake Getschel scored a game-high 15 points and he also delivered nine rebounds and three assists. Effertz slashed his way to the basket for 14 points, getting the most out of his six shots. Joey Kidder finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
"I think this was a big step," New Richmond coach Rick Montreal said of the team's push to finish the season well. "All we can do is make the best of the three weeks. We played really hard, really smart."
Within minutes on Friday, you got the impression the Tigers weren't going to let Amery win. The Tigers' defense was just that overpowering. The Tiger offense didn't start as well, except for Kling. He sank a trio of three-pointers, including one just before the halftime buzzer, to put the Tigers ahead 23-12.
The Tigers started the second half...like tigers. They pounced on Amery, scoring seven quick points and immediately, it was clear the Tigers were going to win. The offense was far sharper in the second half, with quicker movement and passing. The lead was so comfortable the reserves played most of the final 10 minutes of the game, with the coaches getting 15 players varsity court time.
Kling showed his value again as a perimeter shooter, finishing with a team-high 14 points. Kidder had his second double-double of the week, with 11 points, 10 rebounds, along with seven assists.
"He's showing by the numbers how versatile he is," Montreal said.
With four games remaining, all in the MBC, the Tigers are hoping the promise shown last week is the forebearer of a positive finish to the season.