SOMERSET, Wis. -- Somerset slowed the pace down in the second half, clamped down on defense, and hit enough free throws down the end to pull out a 69-63 Middle Border Conference victory over New Richmond Tuesday night, Jan. 19 to snap a two-game losing streak before doing just enough to earn a 57-55 win at Amery Friday, Jan. 22.

Tuesday night in New Richmond, Somerset led by three at the half, 40-37, but Spartan coach Troy Wink said the pace of play benefitted the Tigers, who entered the game averaging over 90 points in back-to-back wins. The Spartans held the Tigers to 26 second half points but still trailed 58-55, with about four minutes remaining before Tate Pitcher nailed a 3-pointer to tie the score. After a stop on defense, Jackson Cook hit a layup and free throw to put the Spartans up for good, 61-58.

“It was a high-scoring, fast-paced game in the first half, which is to New Richmond’s benefit,” Wink said. “I think we were able to control the pace and played better defense in the second half. Some of the shots they were putting up in the first half weren't falling in the second, partly due to better defense.”

Melvin Medina-Ortiz finished 11-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, to lead the Spartans with 27 points in addition to grabbing six rebounds and coming up with four steals.

“Melvin was as good as he's been all year on both ends of the court,” Wink said.

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Cook had 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds before fouling out late while Trae Kreibich scored nine of his 13 points in the first half to give the Spartans a spark. Tysen Wink also made a pair of key baskets to send Somerset into the locker room with a three-point lead while Pitcher finished with eight points.

CJ Campbell and Alex Jarchow each registered double-doubles for the Tigers in the loss. Campbell finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds and Jarchow had 12 points and 16 boards while Owen Covery contributed 16 points and eight assists and Ben Wacker had eight points and seven boards.

Friday night the Spartans shot under 50 percent from both the feld and the free throw line and were outrebounded 29-15 but still managed to pull out a two-point victory at Amery, who entered the game with just one win this season.

The Spartans led 47-37 late when the Warriors went on an 18-8 run to tie the score 55-55 with 18 seconds remaining. Cook scored on a baseline drive with 10 seconds to go and the Spartans forced a turnover and were fouled with four seconds left but missed both free throws. Amery rebounded and called a timeout and the Spartans held them to a half court shot that bounced off the rim at the buzzer to escape with the win.

“Probably turned a few heads with the closeness of the score but happy to have pulled out a win,” Wink said. “Once in a while you don't play your best and the other team does and it results in a very close game. Their defensive game plan was strong, we missed too many free throws, and they hit some very big threes down the stretch to make it a close game.”

Cook led the Spartans with 16 points and Pitcher had 13 points and five assists while Henry Dendinger scored 10.

The Spartans, now 13-5 overall, 6-3 in the Middle Border Conference, will visit Turtle Lake for a nonconference game Thursday, Jan. 28 and return home to host St. Croix Central Saturday, Jan. 30, before a road game at Baldwin-Woodville Tuesday, Feb. 2.

St. Croix Central stays atop MBC standings

Fifth-ranked St. Croix Central didn’t have as much trouble with Amery last week, posting an 81-20 road victory over the Warriors Tuesday night before topping Baldwin-Woodville, 81-58, Friday night in Baldwin.

Friday night’s win was the sixth straight for the Panthers and kept them undefeated in MBC play at 8-0, (12-1 overall), ahead of New Richmond (7-5, 7-2) in the conference standings.

Central’s uptempo offense and pressure defense were clicking on all cylinders Tuesday night in Amery as 12 different players scored at least two points and the Panthers outscored the Warriors 42-5 in the second half.

Colin Hackbarth hit six 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 20 points in addition to registering seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Kelson Klin contributed 17 points and seven boards and Gabe Siler had 12 points, seven assists and six steals as the Panthers totalled 12 3-pointers and 21 steals in the win.

Friday night at Baldwin-Woodville, Klin recorded 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals and Siler had 19 points, seven assists and seven steals as the Panthers cruised to an 81-58 victory. Jackson Pettit added 14 points and Hackbarth gave the Panthers four players in double figures with 10 points.

St. Croix Central visited Hudson Tuesday night, Jan. 26, and will travel to Ellsworth Thursday, Jan. 28 before another road game at Somerset Saturday, Jan. 30.