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Tigers fall short of expectations after consecutive seasons of 20 wins

Scott Kramer thought the Nevis boys basketball team had the potential to win 20 games for the third year in a row.

Losing some close games prevented the Tigers from fulfilling that goal.

The Tigers, who followed a 22-7 record two years ago with a 20-6 season last year, were competitive in almost every game, but had to settle for a 12-15 record this season.

"Our season was a disappointment for us considering that we had come off of back-to-back 20-win seasons and we were returning a good nucleus," said Kramer. "On the flip side, we were very competitive. Other than just a couple opponents, we were in every game and competed with some of the best teams in the conference and section."

The Tigers opened the season with Northland Conference losses to Cass Lake (73-51) and Blackduck (71-60). After a 75-37 win over Northland, the Tigers fell to 0-3 in the conference with a 54-51 loss to Pine River-Backus and followed with a 66-60 loss to Pillager.

At the Park Rapids tournament, the Tigers defeated the host Panthers 63-52 before losing to Heritage Christian 62-49 in the title game.

A 70-31 win over Laporte was followed with conference losses to Red Lake (61-50) and PR-B (56-50).

Nevis strung together a four-game winning streak by defeating Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (60-47) in a conference game, Park Rapids (45-40), Sebeka (75-54) and Northome-Kelliher (67-62) in a conference game.

A 61-34 loss to Wadena-Deer Creek was followed with an 80-65 win over Red Lake and a 76-20 win over Laporte as the Tigers improved to 3-5 in the conference and 9-8 overall.

Nevis split conference games with Cass Lake (losing 63-50) and W-H-A (winning 46-33) before going on a four-game losing streak with losses to Bertha-Hewitt (64-58), Blackduck (53-47), Browerville (65-38) and Northome (62-59). That left the Tigers in a share of fourth place in the conference with a 4-8 record. Nevis went 11-3 in conference play two years ago and 10-2 last season.

The Tigers ended the regular season with wins over Staples-Motley (52-45) and Verndale (60-54) and a loss to Menahga (61-41).

In the Section 5A tournament, the Tigers received the No. 6 seed in the West and saw their season end with a 71-59 overtime loss to No. 3 Eagle Valley.

"We lost six games by 6 points or less and these were games that we had leads in or lost the lead or just didn't finish well," said Kramer. "If a handful of those games go the other way for us, we again come close to 20 wins and we set ourselves up to play a home game in the section tournament. We lost too many of these types of games to call our season successful."

Leading the Tigers this season were seniors Matt Gustafson and Bryon Schuldt; juniors Gerald Beckerleg, Taylor Chase, Robbie Hine and Jake Keranen; and freshman Gavin Becker.

Chase, an all-conference selection, led the Tigers by averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. In 27 games, Chase made 178 of 371 field goals (including 49 of 135 3-pointers) and 142 of 191 free throws for 547 points. Chase broke the school record with 42 points in a game and surpassed 1,000 points for his career. Chase also led the Tigers with 81 assists and 69 steals and was second with 17 blocked shots.

Keranen earned all-conference honorable mention honors after averaging 11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Keranen played in all 27 games and made 133 of 263 field goals and 55 of 99 free throws while scoring 322 points, including a high of 20. Keranen also had 162 rebounds, 48 assists and 23 steals.

Gustafson was third on the team in scoring with 158 points (5.9 per game). In 27 games, Gustafson made 64 of 189 field goals (including 12 of 59 3-pointers) and 18 of 41 free throws. Gustafson scored a season-high 17 points and also had 82 rebounds, 62 assists, 56 steals and 20 blocks.

Hine was next in scoring at 5.4 points a game. Hine hit 52 of 149 field goals (including 21 of 77 3-pointers) and 20 of 42 free throws while scoring 145 points, including a season high of 16. Hine also had 82 rebounds, 65 assists and 39 steals in 27 games.

Becker played in 24 games and made 45 of 108 field goals (including 9 of 46 3-pointers) and 26 of 41 free throws while scoring 125 points (including a high of 18). Becker also had 61 rebounds, 28 steals and 26 assists.

Schuldt played in 24 games and averaged 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. Schuldt made 36 of 123 field goals (including 9 of 53 3-pointers) and 17 of 26 free throws in scoring 98 points. Schuldt also had 89 rebounds, 31 assists and 25 steals.

Beckerleg averaged 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. In 25 games, Beckerleg made 27 of 95 field goals (including 6 of 44 3-pointers) and 20 of 36 free throws for 80 points (including a high of 15). Beckerleg also had 94 rebounds, 65 assists and 37 steals.

Also seeing some varsity time this season were sophomore Jordan Feder (23 points, 23 rebounds in 18 games) and freshman Courtland Chase (26 points, 21 rebounds in 15 games).

Looking ahead to next season, the Tigers have two key spots to fill in Gustafson and Schuldt. However, Nevis returns a solid nucleus looking to reach the 20-win mark next season.

"We lose two seniors that we will miss mostly on the defensive end. Matt and Bryon were both tremendous defenders. We really took pride in our defense this season and they did a great job of defending a variety of players," said Kramer. "Our biggest struggle this year on offense was consistency. We definitely have some potential for next year. The key for us to get back to the level we want and expect to be at is simply to get in the gym and get working."