The second time through the Middle Border Conference basketball schedule has shown opponents more ready for the uptempo game played by the New Richmond boys. That was the case when the Tigers played at St. Croix Central on Friday, Feb. 7.

The Tigers and Panthers battled evenly throughout the night. It wasn’t until the final minute that the Tigers could build a lead, beating Central 74-69. This was a drastic change from the first time the two teams met, exactly a month earlier, when the Tigers rolled Central, 65-30.

New Richmond remains tied with Prescott for the MBC lead with 9-1 records. Central is in fourth place at 6-4.

Central coach Randy Jordan said the Panthers’ goal was to not let New Richmond leading scorers Joey Kidder and C.J. Campbell be the players who beat the Panthers. Fortunately for the Tigers, Owen Covey and Jacob Parent both stepped up with career-best offensive efforts. Covey scored 20 points and Parent finished with 16. They both drained four 3-pointers in the game.

“Without those eight threes, this is definitely a different story all together,” said New Richmond coach Rick Montreal.

Central was led by junior Jackson Pettit, who also had a career-high scoring night, finishing with 28 points.

“The Pettit kid can play,” Montreal said.

It appeared the Tigers might be in a position to pull away in the game, leading 41-30 at halftime. The Panthers opened the second half with a plan to get the ball into the paint. That produced a few short-range shots, but it also caused New Richmond’s perimeter defenders to collapse to the paint. The Panthers then kicked the ball out to the perimeter for open shots. Central outscored the Tigers 17-3 to start the second half to take a 47-44 lead.

Neither team could build a sizable lead in the second half. The Tigers took the lead for good on a pair of hoops by Kidder. The Tigers spread the floor and Kidder was able to drive to the rim for a score. On the ensuing possession, he jumped into a passing lane for a steal and went the distance for a layup.

Kidder was one of five Tigers who scored in double figures. Led by Covey and Parent, Kidder finished with 12 points, Campbell 11 and Tim Salmon with 10.

Montreal said the Tigers knew Central would play a much more competitive game in the second meeting. The Panthers were stronger at both ends of the court. Senior Trevor Kopacz led the defense against Campbell. Pettit and Kelson Klin led the scoring, with Klin getting 15 points, mainly from the paint. Gabe Siler contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the game.

Jordan said the Panthers took the approach that this game was going to be played at the intensity level they’ll need in the upcoming WIAA playoffs. Jordan said he was pleased with how the Panthers were able to match New Richmond’s intensity throughout the game.

The Tigers and Panthers continue their MBC schedules this week. The Tigers will host Amery on Thursday. Central plays at Osceola Thursday, then heads to Stanley-Boyd for a non-conference game at 2 p.m. Saturday.