Gaby Aune

New Richmond’s Gaby Aune (13) beats a pair of St. Croix Falls defenders at the top of the lane on her way to scoring two of her game-high 28 points in the Tigers’ 71-47 victory over the Saints Tuesday night, Nov. 22, in New Richmond. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

The 1-3-1 zone defense was at the heart of the success for the New Richmond girls basketball team last season.

The Tiger coaches decided to work on the team’s man-to-man defense in the first two games of the season. But in their third game Tuesday against St. Croix Falls, the Tigers unleashed the 1-3-1 against the Saints. And it was hugely successful. The Tigers sprang to a 9-0 lead and never surrendered it in a 71-47 win over the Saints. The Saints return many players who were members of the 2021-22 SCF team that advanced to the WIAA state tournament in Division 3.

The 1-3-1 defense had the Tigers swarming all over the Saints, with intense ball pressure. Coach Riley Walz has Gaby Aune at the point on the defense, with Lilly Carlson and Brooke Blasczyk on the wings. Their pressure was a key factor in the Tigers recording 14 steals in the game.

The Tigers took the 9-0 lead, then withstood the Saints’ best charge that cut the lead to 11-10. The Tigers scored the next nine points and their lead never shrank below six points in the rest of the game. The Tigers led at halftime 35-19.

The pressure defense resulted in numerous transition hoops for the Tigers, primarily by Aune. She finished with a game-high 28 points, hitting 14-18 shots from the field. The numerous transition hoops resulted in the Tigers making 29-46 shots from two-point range, an impressive 63 percent success rate. The Tigers weren’t so hot from the perimeter, making 2-15 three-point tries.

“Threes are not our strong suit,” Walz said. “We are at our best when we’re trying to get to the hoop.”

Ball movement was a strength for the Tigers on offense and that was led by Blasczyk. She finished with eight assists, several of which came on nice entry passes to the post and several more were on lead passes to Aune on the fast break. Blasczyk also scored 13 points and led the Tigers with 10 rebounds.

Running a defense with the intensity required of a 1-3-1 requires depth. The Tigers have that. Ella Covey and Stella Nielsen both scored eight points Tuesday in reserve roles as they continue to earn more minutes.

The Tigers begin their Big Rivers Conference schedule Tuesday, Nov. 29, with a game at Eau Claire North. On Friday, Dec. 2, the Tigers will host River Falls.

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