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Tigers set solid foundation in first season for Neyens

Emma Bliss (33) capped off her senior season with all-conference and team MVP honors after leading the Tigers by averaging 7.9 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Even though the Nevis girls basketball team finished with a 4-21 overall record, Brad Neyens was pleased with the improvement the Tigers showed in his first season as head coach.

"Despite our win/loss record, I feel that the season went pretty well," said Neyens. "We had girls that worked hard every day and enjoyed playing the game of basketball. We improved quite a bit as the season went on. We played smarter, turned the ball over less and played solid defense."

The Tigers opened the season on a positive note by going 2-1 in Northwoods Conference play with a 46-44 overtime loss to Blackduck, a 59-35 win over Laporte and a 61-55 victory over Cass Lake.

A nine-game losing streak followed with a conference loss to Clearbrook-Gonvick (66-23); a loss to Browerville/Eagle Valley (64-44); losses to Sebeka (74-41) and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (62-17) at the Nevis Tournament; conference losses to Pine River-Backus (52-28), W-H-A (59-17), Cass Lake (63-38) and Kelliher/Northome (54-28); and a loss to Red Lake (81-25).

Nevis defeated Bertha-Hewitt 52-45, lost to Park Rapids 54-29 and defeated Laporte 68-25 before ending the regular season with losses to Menahga (56-37), W-H-A (61-30), Clearbrook-Gonvick (72-28), Park Christian (58-31), Blackduck (43-39), PR-B (63-41), Kelliher/Northome (59-45), Sebeka (61-44) and Verndale (46-28).

PR-B won the conference title with a 13-1 record while W-H-A (12-2), Clearbrook-Gonvick (10-4), Kelliher/Northome (8-6), Cass Lake (6-8), Blackduck (4-10), Nevis (3-11) and Laporte (0-14) followed.

The Tigers received the No. 8 seed in the North for the Section 5A tournament and had their season end with a 65-56 loss to No. 9 Bertha-Hewitt in the first round.

For the season, the Tigers shot 27.1 percent from the field (365 for 1,348, including 37 for 209 on 3-pointers) and 40.6 percent at the free throw line (184 for 453) while averaging 38.0 points a game. Nevis allowed 56.8 points a night while turning the ball over an average of 27.7 times a game.

Seeing time on the varsity for the Tigers this season were seniors Emma Bliss, Madisyn Lucas and Sierra Monroe; juniors Montana Baker, Annalise Ahrendt and Tori Carrier; sophomores Ashley Pyburn and Gabby David; freshmen Kia Heide, Katie Kamphaus, Jayden Vredenberg, Cora Umthun and Maddie Soldwisch; and seventh grader Ava Isaacson.

Bliss earned team MVP honors and was a Northwoods Conference Second Team selection after leading the Tigers by averaging 7.9 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. In 25 games, Bliss scored 198 points and had 200 rebounds, 44 steals, 27 assists and 15 blocked shots.

Pyburn was an all-conference honorable mention selection after averaging 3.1 points a game. Pyburn scored 77 points and had 66 rebounds, 52 steals, 27 assists and 12 blocked shots in 25 games.

Heide was second in scoring by averaging 6.4 points a night. In 24 games, Heide had 153 points, 131 rebounds and 37 steals with a team-leading 24 blocked shots.

Baker played in all 25 games and averaged 6.0 points a night, finishing the season with 183 points, 152 rebounds, 36 steals, 15 assists and 14 blocks.

Lucas led the team with 68 steals and 44 assists while averaging 4.4 points a game by scoring 111 points in 25 games. Lucas also hauled down 88 rebounds.

Kamphaus played in 22 games and averaged 3.5 points a night, tallying 76 points, 70 rebounds, 12 blocks and 10 steals.

Ahrendt played in 22 games and had 31 points, 49 rebounds, 15 steals and 14 assists. Monroe saw action in 25 games and had 26 points, 38 rebounds and 10 steals. Carrier played in 24 games and had 54 points, 51 rebounds, 22 steals and 13 assists.

Also contributing on varsity were Vredenberg (20 points, 10 rebounds in 17 games), Umthun (14 points in 12 games), Isaacson (6 points, 13 rebounds in 10 games), David (four games) and Soldwisch (two games).

Other team awards went to Bliss (all-state academic), Pyburn (Defensive Player of the Year) and Heide (Rookie of the Year).

"We graduate three seniors and they will be missed. It will be hard to replace Emma's work ethic and team leadership and Madisyn's tough defense. But saying that, we look forward to next year," said Neyens. "I expect us to win more games next year. We'll have a nice mix of senior leadership mixed with young talent. We have a lot of young talent and with a lot of hard work in the off-season, we might surprise some people next year. The future of this program should be bright for many years to come."