Lien satisfied with first season as head coach of Nevis girls
Mike Lien didn’t know what to expect in his first season as head coach of the Nevis girls basketball team.
Going 7-7 in Northwoods Conference play to tie for fourth place and finishing with an 11-14 overall record provided a satisfying head coaching debut for Lien.
“This was the first time I’ve ever coached girls, so I knew it was going to be a learning experience,” said Lien. “Only two girls had true varsity experience from last year, so I knew we’d have some growing pains. Overall, I was satisfied with the way our season went.”
The Tigers opened the season with an 80-77 double-overtime loss to Kelliher-Northome, a 76-62 win over Blackduck, a 59-46 loss to Clearbrook-Gonvick, and victories over Northland Remer (66-58) and Bertha-Hewitt (51-42).
At the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley holiday tournament, the Tigers lost to Red Lake Falls (64-45) before defeating Sebeka (53-51).
After opening 2014 with losses to Pine River-Backus (51-39) and W-H-A (52-37), the Tigers strung together a three-game winning streak by defeating Cass Lake (63-28), Laporte (55-21) and Kelliher-Northome (60-40).
Nevis dropped a 76-55 decision to Park Rapids, but followed with wins over Laporte (61-29) and Cass Lake (63-42).
The Tigers went 1-7 in the final eight regular-season games with losses to W-H-A (58-51), Pillager (62-41) and Clearbrook-Gonvick (49-29), a win over Blackduck (67-54), and losses to Pine River-Backus (47-46), Sebeka (65-46), Menahga (46-42) and Verndale (56-40). Nevis also had a game against Swanville (which ended the season with a 4-22 record) canceled.
W-H-A won the Northwoods Conference title with a 13-1 record while Pine River-Backus (12-2) and Clearbrook-Gonvick (10-4) followed. Nevis tied Kelliher-Northome for fourth place at 7-7 while Blackduck (4-10), Cass Lake (3-11) and Laporte (0-14) followed.
A 3-5 record against section teams and 10-13 overall record gave Nevis the No. 7 seed in the north for the Section 5A playoffs. The Tigers opened the tournament with a 66-53 win over No. 10 Northland Remer before being eliminated with a 70-57 loss to No. 2 Verndale.
For the season, the Tigers averaged 53.3 points a game while allowing 52.6 points a night. Nevis shot 40 percent from the field (506 for 1,265, including 20 for 125 on 3-pointers) and 58.7 percent at the free throw line (300 for 511). The Tigers also averaged 19.5 turnovers a game.
“When I looked over the schedule in September, I expected us to win between 12 and 15 games,” said Lien. “We finished with 11 and looking back now, I’d say 12 to 15 wins was a realistic goal. We had a game get canceled that was a very winnable game and we lost two or three games that I felt slipped out of our finger tips.”
Leading the Tigers this season were seniors Megan Norby, Diana Schuldt and Angel Wolf; sophomores Hannah Bliss, Jordyn Lucas and Alexis Poncelet; and freshman Emma Bliss.
Norby earned Northwoods Conference First Team honors after leading the Tigers in scoring at 22.8 points a game. Norby made 45 percent of her shots (202 for 449) and 72.8 percent of her free throws (166 for 228) en route to scoring 570 points. Norby also had 224 rebounds, 59 steals and 37 assists in 25 games to earn the Tiger Award as the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Hannah Bliss was named to the Northwoods Conference Second Team after leading the Tigers in rebounds with 291 and finishing second in scoring at 15.4 points a night. Bliss shot 47.9 percent from the field (160 for 334) and 53.2 percent at the line (66 for 124) in scoring 386 points. Bliss also led the Tigers with 19 blocked shots and had 37 steals and 20 assists in 25 games. Bliss received the team’s Hustle Award.
Lucas earned all-conference honorable mention honors after leading the Tigers with 79 assists and 70 steals while averaging 5.4 points a game. Lucas made 51 of 137 shots (37.2 percent) and 27 of 59 free throws (45.8 percent) in scoring 129 points. Lucas also pulled down 49 rebounds in 24 games.
Schuldt accounted for all of Nevis’ 3-pointers and averaged 3.7 points a game. Schuldt made 20 of 120 3-pointers and 33 of 133 total field goals (24.8 percent) while tallying 88 points, 95 rebounds, 42 steals and 29 assists in 24 games. Schuldt received a Coaches Award.
Emma Bliss averaged 2.4 points a game with 58 points by making 21 of 65 shots (32.3 percent) and 16 of 36 free throws (44.4 percent). Bliss also had 112 rebounds and 20 steals in 24 games. Bliss was named Rookie of the Year.
Wolf played in 20 games and tallied 44 points, 42 rebounds, 30 steals and 19 assists. Wolf received the team’s Workhorse Award.
Poncelet had 38 points and 49 rebounds in 19 games. Poncelet received the team’s Unsung Hero Award.
Also seeing some varsity time were junior Lindsey Bennett, sophomores Katya Ahrendt and Megan Edelman, and freshman Madisyn Lucas.
Even though the Tigers have three key seniors to replace, Lien is looking to put another competitive team on the floor next season.
“We graduate three seniors who will be pretty difficult to replace. Megan averaged 23 points a game, Diana was our 3-pointer specialist and Angel was our sparkplug and one of our stronger defenders,” said Lien. “I expect us to be competitive again as we return four girls who will bring varsity experience to the table. I’d say that 12 to 15 wins is realistic for next season. I’m hoping the girls put together a good summer and improve on the little things that should get us over the hump.”