After graduating two players who scored more than 1,000 points, Jeremy Nordick was looking for two players to take over the scoring role for the Menahga boys basketball team this season.
Senior Markus Tolkkinen and junior Tanner Schwartz stepped up to the challenge.
The Braves had to replace the scoring punch of Tom Gruchow and Kasey Tyge, who both surpassed 1,000 career points last season. Those two led the Braves to a 5-7 record in Park Region Conference play and a 13-13 overall record.
Led by Tolkkinen and Schwartz, the Braves almost duplicated those records by going 6-6 in conference play and 12-14 overall this season.
After opening the season with wins over Hill City (61-44) and Sebeka (73-60), the Braves lost their next seven games. A 65-63 loss to Frazee was followed with a pair of losses to Swanville (70-61) and Pine River-Backus (51-47) at the Henning tournament. Menahga then dropped games to Verndale (67-52), Eagle Valley (70-53), Pillager (60-53), Henning (64-51) and Bertha-Hewitt (56-51).
The Braves followed with a five-game winning streak by defeating Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (66-65), New York Mills (69-47), Verndale (65-64), Pine River-Backus (68-65) and Sebeka (68-44).
Losses to Wadena-Deer Creek (66-64), Pillager (79-66) and Browerville (70-53) were followed with wins over Henning (65-63) and Parkers Prairie (69-67).
Menahga ended the regular season with an 80-54 loss to Bertha-Hewitt, a 75-52 win over New York Mills, a 66-48 loss to Park Rapids and a 61-41 win over Nevis.
The Braves went 6-6 in conference play to finish fourth behind Pillager (10-2), Henning (10-2) and Bertha-Hewitt (9-3).
For the Section 5A West tournament, the Braves received the No. 8 seed and opened with a 72-44 win over No. 9 Sebeka before being eliminated with a 66-48 loss to No. 1 Browerville.
For the season, the Braves shot 45.1 percent from the field (602 for 1,336) and 60.5 percent at the free throw line (276 for 456) while averaging 60.6 points a game. Menahga allowed 61.0 points a night.
Leading the Braves' offense this season were Tolkkinen and Schwartz.
Tolkkinen led the Braves in scoring at 17.0 points a game. In 26 games, Tolkkinen made 168 of 307 field goals and 101 of 173 free throws in scoring 442 points. Tolkkinen also led Menahga with 101 assists and 75 steals while chipping in 142 rebounds and 11 blocked shots. Tolkkinen scored in double digits in 23 games with a high of 27 and had four double-doubles.
Schwartz followed by averaging 16.2 points a night. Schwartz hit 162 of 339 field goals and 65 of 89 free throws in scoring 422 points. In 26 games, Schwartz scored in double figures 22 times with a high of 28. Schwartz had five double-doubles and one triple-double and led the team with 203 rebounds, 45 blocks and 33 3-pointers. Schwartz also had 46 steals and 38 assists.
Also playing key roles for the Braves this season were seniors Rylan Aho and Justin Luedke, juniors Stetson Burkman and Brandon Junes, sophomore Levi Schwartz and freshman Austen Schwartz.
Austen Schwartz was second on the team with 30 3-pointers and was third in scoring at 6.2 points a game. In 26 games, Schwartz made 58 of 196 field goals and 15 of 27 free throws for 161 points. Schwartz was second with 77 assists while chipping in 44 steals. Schwartz scored in double figures seven times with a high of 24.
Burkman also played in all 26 games and averaged 5.8 points a night. Burkman made 68 of 141 field goals and 7 of 10 free throws for 151 points. Burkman also had 90 rebounds, 38 steals, 25 assists and 10 blocks. Burkman hit double figures six times with a high of 13.
Aho averaged 3.7 points a game. In 26 games, Aho made 38 of 87 field goals and 10 of 20 free throws for 96 points with a high of 13. Aho also had 74 rebounds, 44 steals and 33 assists.
Levi Schwartz also played in all 26 games and scored 94 points by making 31 of 92 field goals and 25 of 46 free throws. Schwartz also contributed 88 rebounds, 18 steals, 17 assists and 15 blocks.
Junes scored 78 points by making 32 of 81 field goals and 14 of 25 free throws while adding 53 rebounds, 20 steals and 14 assists in 26 games.
Luedke made 23 of 41 field goal and 18 of 29 free throws for 64 points in 25 games. Luedke also had 61 rebounds, 23 steals and 12 assists.
Also contributing offensively on the varsity this season were freshman Austin Rudquist (46 points, 38 rebounds in 22 games), junior Jeff Johnson (10 points in 15 games) and junior Jeff Skoog (11 points in 18 games).