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Nevis girls basketball team exceeds expectations with 18-9 record

Mandy Allman (32) averaged 12.3 points a game in leading the Nevis girls basketball team to an 18-9 record this season.

Kent Hjelseth expected the Nevis girls basketball team to produce a winning record this season.

Going 18-9 exceeded the expectations of the Tigers' head coach.

"We entered the season with a goal of finishing .500 for the season," said Hjelseth. "The players improved individually and as a team and exceeded my expectations."

The Tigers finished third in the Northwoods Conference standings with an 11-3 record, just one game behind the 12-2 records of co-champions Pine River-Backus and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley. Clearbrook-Gonvick (9-5), Cass Lake-Bena (6-8), Kelliher-Northome (2-12), Blackduck (2-12) and Laporte (2-12) followed.

For the season, PR-B finished 19-9 while W-H-A ended at 15-11 and Clearbrook-Gonvick went 16-11. Cass Lake (7-17), Kelliher (7-17), Blackduck (3-20) and Laporte (2-22) combined for only 19 wins.

Nevis opened the season with a 62-47 win over Laporte before dropping games to Clearbrook-Gonvick (59-57) and Bertha-Hewitt (61-40).

A three-game winning streak followed as the Tigers defeated Kelliher (67-37), Blackduck (62-50) and Browerville (62-42).

At the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley holiday tournament, the Tigers lost to Parkers Prairie 88-37 before rebounding to defeat Pine River-Backus (46-44) and Red Lake Falls (38-35) to claim the consolation title.

Wins over Cass Lake (55-45), Menahga (55-30) and Verndale (48-38) gave Nevis a 9-3 mark.

A four-game losing streak followed as Nevis lost to Sebeka (60-34), W-H-A (43-42), Northland Remer (61-56) and PR-B (48-38).

Nevis then ran off eight wins in a row by defeating Kelliher (56-34), Royalton (35-25), Park Rapids (61-38), Laporte (61-28), Cass Lake (60-39), PR-B (42-39), W-H-A (45-41) and Clearbrook-Gonvick (51-32).

After Verndale ended that winning streak with a 47-46 victory, the Tigers defeated Blackduck 44-31 to end the regular season with an 18-8 record.

Nevis received the No. 5 seed in the west half of Section 5A and had its season end with a 36-25 loss to No. 4 PR-B in the subsection quarterfinals.

For the season, the Tigers averaged 49.1 points a game while allowing 43.6 points a night.

Leading the Tigers this season were the five starters: seniors Mandy Allman and Becca Gunkel, junior Paige Walters, sophomore Bettsy Hjelseth and freshman Riley Hanson. Allman and Hjelseth earned all-conference first team honors while Walters and Hanson were named to the all-conference second team.

Hanson led the Tigers in scoring at 14.9 points a game and was second in rebounding with 9.0 per night. The freshman forward tallied 403 points, 243 rebounds, 54 blocked shots, 50 steals and 36 assists.

Allman finished second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points a game while averaging 6.3 rebounds a night. The senior forward scored 320 points and had 165 rebounds, 51 steals and 50 assists.

Hjelseth led the team with 276 rebounds, 81 assists, 71 steals and 66 blocks and was third in scoring with 248 points. The sophomore guard averaged 8.9 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.

Walters averaged 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, finishing the season with 233 points and 133 rebounds. The junior guard also had 73 assists, 70 steals and 17 blocks.

Gunkel contributed 5.8 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. The senior guard tallied 161 points, 72 assists, 60 rebounds and 34 steals.

Also seeing some varsity action this season were junior Amy Mack; sophomore Katherine Anderson; freshmen Kate Dierkhising, Katie Becker, Mattie Hjelseth, Karly Drury, Kasey Sauser and Meghan Templeton; and eighth grader Jordan Walters.

Looking ahead to next season, the Tigers have to replace Allman and Gunkel, but have three starters returning to form a solid nucleus.

"We lose two seniors in Mandy and Becca. Mandy was an all-conference first team player two straight years and Becca was our best defensive player. Both were excellent leaders and mentors for our program," said Hjelseth. "We have a nice group of hard-working players returning. If they put some time in during the off-season, we should be a very competitive team next year."