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Tigers met high goals under new head coach

Megan Norby led the Tigers with 507 points, 84 assists and 72 steals this season.

When Bill Dent took over as head coach of the Nevis girls basketball team, he expected the Tigers would have a winning record.

The Tigers lived up to those expectations by going 9-5 in Northwoods Conference play and 18-10 overall.

"I thought it was a really rewarding season," said Dent. "We were very competitive and made a lot of improvement. It was a really fun year."

Nevis opened the season with conference wins over Cass Lake (85-66), Kelliher-Northome (65-53) and Blackduck (56-26). After a conference loss to Clearbrook-Gonvick (54-37), the Tigers defeated Bertha-Hewitt (56-51).

At the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley tournament, the Tigers opened with losses to Frazee (77-58) and W-H-A (68-62) before defeating Cass Lake (61-50).

A conference win over Laporte (71-32) and a win over Menahga (51-50) were followed with a conference loss to Cass Lake (66-64). The Tigers then defeated Pillager (70-37) and W-H-A (68-52).

Back-to-back losses to Pine River-Backus (61-54) and Sebeka (78-40) were followed by back-to-back wins over Kelliher-Northome (65-52) and Verndale (74-46).

After another conference loss to PR-B (65-42), the Tigers ran off a four-game winning streak by defeating Park Rapids (67-47), Laporte (67-23), Northland (75-45) and W-H-A (63-53).

Nevis ended the regular season with a loss to Clearbrook-Gonvick (69-60), wins over Blackduck (63-27) and Browerville (55-52), and a loss to Staples-Motley (76-49).

In conference play, the Tigers finished third behind PR-B (13-0) and Clearbrook-Gonvick (12-1). Nevis earned the No. 3 seed in the West for the Section 5A playoffs. The Tigers defeated No. 6 Menahga 60-47 before having their season end with a 62-57 loss to No. 2 Sebeka.

For the season, the Tigers averaged 20.1 turnovers a game and 60.5 points a game while allowing 53.1. Of Nevis' 10 losses, seven were to four teams - Sebeka (24-5), Clearbrook-Gonvick (24-6), Staples-Motley (23-5) and PR-B (21-8) - who won more than 20 games this season.

"Our goal was to get to the subsection title game," said Dent. "It was a little disappointing because I thought we could beat Sebeka. We fell a little short."

Leading the Tigers were senior Bettsy Hjelseth; juniors Riley Hanson, Mattie Hjelseth, Kate Dierkhising, Karly Drury and Katie Becker; and sophomores Megan Norby and Jordan Walters.

Norby led the Tigers by averaging 18.1 points a game. Norby scored in double figures in 27 of the 28 games, scoring at least 20 points 12 times and grabbing at least 10 rebounds in five games. Norby had five double-doubles with highs of 29 points and 13 rebounds. Norby made 200 of 426 field goals and 106 of 158 free throws while scoring 507 points. Norby also had 167 rebounds (6.0 per game), 84 assists, 72 steals and 13 blocked shots.

Hanson was second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points a game and led the Tigers in rebounding at 10.3 a night. In 27 games, Hanson had 14 double-doubles with a high of 18 points and 19 rebounds. Hanson scored in double figures in 20 games and had double digits in rebounds in 18 games. Hanson made 132 of 259 field goals and 40 of 78 free throws in scoring 304 points to surpass 1,000 in her career. Hanson also had 277 rebounds, 73 assists, 70 steals and 35 blocked shots. Hanson now has 1,207 points in her career.

Bettsy Hjelseth averaged 8.4 points and 10.0 rebounds a game. In 28 games, Hjelseth made 92 of 230 field goals and 46 of 101 free throws in scoring 235 points. Hjelseth had eight double-doubles during the season with a high of 20 points and 23 rebounds. Hjelseth scored at least 10 points in 11 games and had at least 10 rebounds in 12 games. Hjelseth led the team with 280 rebounds and had 83 assists, 68 steals and 34 blocks.

Mattie Hjelseth played in all 28 games and averaged 7.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. Hjelseth made 93 of 240 field goals and 28 of 53 free throws in scoring 214 points. Hjelseth had six double-doubles with highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds. Hjelseth scored at least 10 points in nine games and grabbed at least 10 rebounds seven times. Hjelseth finished the season with 184 rebounds, 42 steals, 41 assists and 13 blocks.

Dierkhising led the Tigers with 25 3-pointers and finished the season averaging 4.8 points a night. In 28 games, Dierkhising made 48 of 144 field goals and 14 of 18 free throws for 135 points with a season high of 15. Dierkhising also had 54 rebounds, 37 assists and 32 steals.

Walters also averaged 4.8 points a game, making 51 of 174 field goals and 14 of 44 free throws for 133 points. Walters scored a season-high 13 points and had 79 assists, 49 steals and 46 rebounds.

Drury averaged 2.7 points and 2.9 rebounds a game. In 26 games, Drury scored 69 points by making 29 of 91 field goals and 10 of 22 free throws. Drury also had 76 rebounds, 33 assists and 13 steals.

Becker played in 27 games and averaged 2.4 points a game. Becker made 27 of 95 field goals and 8 of 24 free throws for 64 points. Becker also had 48 rebounds, 37 assists and 22 steals.

Also playing key minutes this season were senior Katherine Erickson (19 points, 26 rebounds in 21 games) and sophomore Cambria Ahrendt (16 rebounds in 19 games).

Looking ahead to next season, Dent likes his team's chances of approaching 20 wins again and advancing further in the playoffs.

"I look for more improvement next year. We have some really good athletes and they want to become better basketball players," said Dent. "Bettsy had a fine career. She was our senior captain and she'll be hard to replace. But we have a solid nucleus coming back. I'm excited about next year. We're going to be a solid club. I think we're going to be one of the contenders in the conference and section."