Defending the Section 5A title and advancing to the state tournament is the main goal for the Nevis boys basketball team this season.

The Tigers return three starters from last year’s team that shared the Northland Conference title with Cass Lake-Bena at 12-1 while going 20-3 overall. Nevis received the No. 1 seed in the West for the Section 5A playoffs and earned a trip to state with wins over No. 9 Bertha-Hewitt (91-41), No. 5 Browerville/Eagle Valley (60-45) and No. 2 Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (59-50) before defeating Upsala, the No. 2 seed in the East, 54-48 in the section championship game at Wadena. Hancock denied the Tigers a chance to play at Target Center with a 57-50 win in the state Class A quarterfinals at Perham.

Being counted on to lead the Tigers back to state are seniors Eddie Kramer, Cain Mitchell and Ty Warrington. Those three return to the starting lineup. Sophomores JP Benson and Joe Houchin also return with plenty of varsity experience and should take over the other two starting spots.

Kramer led the Tigers by making 78 3-pointers and was second on the team in scoring at 16.6 points a game. Kramer started all 23 games and had 382 points (with a high of 28) to surpass 1,000 in his career while chipping in 80 rebounds, 34 assists and 30 steals.

Warrington averaged 14.5 points a game in 23 starts, finishing with 333 points with a high of 25. Warrington finished second with 93 assists and 62 steals while adding 48 rebounds, 38 3-pointers and 13 blocked shots.

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Houchin averaged 7.0 points a game playing in all 23 games. Houchin scored 161 points and had 40 rebounds, 32 steals and 28 assists while scoring a high of 17.

Mitchell played in all 23 games and averaged 6.1 points a night with a high of 17. Mitchell tallied 141 points, 89 rebounds, 43 steals, 23 assists and 19 blocked shots.

Benson averaged 5.6 points a game off the bench, scoring 123 points with 22 3-pointers and a high of 13 while adding 55 rebounds in 22 games.

“It looks to be a very promising year for us. We have a lot of depth to add to our three returning starters and we had a productive summer in the gym, so we really feel like we can win each time we step on the floor,” said Kramer, who will be assisted by Bill Dent, “We were able to strengthen our schedule this year, as last year we were forced to play 14 conference games with just a small number of other added games. I think that hurt us last season as our conference was down a little bit, other than Cass Lake, and we couldn't add some tougher opponents like we would have wanted.”

A year ago, the Tigers finished with 20 wins for the sixth time in the last seven years. Nevis averaged 73.1 points a game while allowing 49.7 points a night. Nevis shot 46.6% from the floor (612 for 1,314), 37.9% on 3-pointers (197 for 520) and 68.5% on free throws (261 for 381) while averaging only 6.8 turnovers a game.

Having another successful season will depend on replacing the contributions of last year’s senior trio of Derek Lindow (18.3 points per game), Jack McNamee (4.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game) and Dan Aman. Looking to fill those voids are seniors Ian Ahrendt, Tyler Lindow and Ethan Lewis; juniors Spencer Lindow and Ethan Klimek; sophomore Austin Ahrendt; and freshmen Devan Lindow and Alex Lester.

Nevis and Cass Lake-Bena are the favorites to win the conference title while the Tigers’ chances of defending their section title got easier with B-B-E moving to Section 6A. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle takes B-B-E’s spot in the section. Nevis enters the season rated No. 6 in the state Class A poll and the favorite to win the Section 5A title.

“As for conference and section play, Cass Lake returns just about everyone from last year and it looks like both teams (Nevis and CL-B) have a legitimate shot at reaching the state tournament,” said Kramer. “With section realignment, our biggest rival from the last two seasons, B-B-E, is now in Section 6A. Upsala returns their best player, so they will be a team to watch. I think we have the potential to improve on last season's success.”

SEASON SCHEDULE
Dec. 2 - Clearbrook-Gonvick, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 6 - Verndale, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 9 - at Northland, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 11 - vs. Madelia at Hopkins. Dec. 14 - at Pequot Lakes, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 17 - at Laporte, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 20 - vs. Pine River-Backus at Pillager, 8 p.m. Dec. 21 - at Pillager tournament. Dec. 29 - vs. Northwoods at St. Cloud tournament. Dec. 30 - at St. Cloud tournament.
Jan. 6 - Blackduck, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 8 - vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl at Duluth. Jan. 11 - at Red Lake, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 14 - Northome-Kelliher, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 18 - Cherry, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 20 - Cass Lake-Bena, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 25 - at Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 28 - Pine River-Backus, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 31 - Red Lake, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 3 - Laporte, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 8 - at Blackduck, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 14 - at Browerville-Eagle Valley, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 15 - at Northome-Kelliher, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 17 - at Cass Lake-Bena, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 22 - Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 28 - at Mahnomen, 7:15 p.m.