Boys Basketball: Nevis earns return trip to state tournament
The Tigers defeat Barnum 68-54 in the Section 5A championship game.
COLLEGEVILLE – Having players take on different roles led to the same result for the Nevis boys basketball team.
The Tigers had to replace three starters in 1,000-pointer scorers Eddie Kramer and Ty Warrington along with Cain Mitchell from last year’s team that repeated as the Section 5A champions. Austin Ahrendt, Devan Lindow and Alex Lester took over those spots to join returning starters JohnPaul Benson and Joe Houchin while Spencer Lindow, Christian Moe and Eli Lewis became the first players off the bench.
That group didn’t miss a beat, playing well from the start of the season as the Tigers completed their mission by earning a trip to state for the third consecutive year and the fifth time in school history.
Lester set the tone early by scoring 21 points in the first half as Nevis claimed a 39-23 advantage in defeating Barnum 68-54 in the Section 5A championship game at St. John’s University on Friday, March 17.
“Coming into the season, we knew we had the potential to be good, but we didn't really expect to get this far with how young we were going to be. We had some big shoes to fill and a lot of points to make up with the loss of Warrington, Kramer and Mitchell from the starting lineup. We did have a productive summer though, and as we got the season going, things just started to come together for us,” said Nevis head coach Scott Kramer. “With Houchin and Benson returning as starters from last year, we knew we had guys to build around, but no one could have predicted just how well Devan Lindow and Lester would've played and improved throughout the season. Throw in Ahrendt and we became a well rounded team sooner than later. Spencer Lindow, Moe and Lewis provided the depth. Altogether, we created a high energy team that really looked forward to competing night in and night out.”
Lester opened the section championship game with a putback before a pair of baskets by Layne Wickstrom gave Barnum a 4-2 lead with 15:20 to play in the first half. The Tigers, the No. 1 seed in the West, responded with a 25-5 run to take control.
Three inside baskets and a pair of three-point plays by Lester along with layups by Lewis and Benson and a 3-pointer by Moe gave Nevis a 27-9 advantage. A layup by Spencer Lindow along with three-point plays by Ahrendt and Lester made it 37-16 at the 1:48 mark before another layup by Lester gave the Tigers their 16-point cushion at the break.
“We got off to an early start and took a double figure lead into halftime. Lester dominated the paint in the first half. Lester has been a matchup problem for teams all season and the Barnum game was no different. He has lightened the load on our shooters as he has been a force in the post that we haven't had for quite some time,” said Kramer. “Alex has come a long way this season and has really improved on his vision and passing out of the post on double teams. We have also developed into a really good defensive team. Ahrendt has been the reason for this with his nonstop energy on the defensive end of the floor.”
Nevis opened the second half with a 12-0 run as a layup by Lester, a 3-pointer by Benson, a layup off a steal by Devan Lindow, a three-point play by Benson and a layup by Houchin extended the lead to 51-23 with 14:43 to go.
Back-to-back layups by Benson and consecutive 3-pointers by Moe gave the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 62-27. Lealan Norby’s 3-pointer and jumper made it 67-35 before Barnum, led by a pair of 3-pointers by Hayden Charboneau, closed out the game with a 19-1 run against Nevis’ reserves.
Lester finished with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists while Benson chipped in 15 points. Devan Lindow dished out nine assists, Spencer Lindow had three rebounds and Benson had two rebounds as the Tigers improved to 24-6.
Wickstrom hit all 16 free throws he attempted in scoring 22 points while Charboneau added 13 points to lead the Bombers, who ended the season with a 17-13 record. Barnum made 24 of 26 free throws in the game.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter (in the first half). We started the second half on a 12-0 run and that pretty much decided it,” said Kramer. “The final score looked much closer than the game was because we emptied the bench and rewarded our reserves late in the game. They didn’t have their best night off the bench, but we otherwise coasted to the win. I couldn’t be more proud of our team for the effort and commitment that they have given all year to get to another section championship.”
This marked Nevis’ fifth Section 5A title in the last eight years. The Tigers qualified for state for the first time in school history in 2015 and returned in 2017 before winning the last three Section 5A titles. Nevis could also have qualified for state in 2020, but the section final against Hinckley-Finlayson was canceled because of COVID.
Barnum, the No. 1 seed, advanced to the section final by defeating No. 3 Kaleidoscope Charter 46-36 in the Section 5A East title game. The Tigers defeated Barnum 67-37 in last year’s 5A championship game.
The Tigers (who have won 15 of their last 16 games) received the No. 8 seed in a random draw and will play No. 1-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (28-1) to open the state Class A tournament at 11 a.m. on Wednesday (March 22) at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The other state quarterfinals pit No. 2 New Life Academy (24-5) against No. 7 East Grand Forks Sacred Heart (27-4), No. 3 Spring Grove (29-1) against No. 6 Mankato Loyola (22-8) and No. 4 Cherry (26-4) against No. 5 Border West (26-2).
Target Center will host the semifinals on Friday (March 24) and the championship game on Saturday (March 25) while Concordia-St. Paul will host the consolation semifinals on Thursday (March 23) and the third place and consolation championship games on Saturday (March 25).
“With such a young team, we are excited about the opportunity to play at the state tournament. It will be a great experience for our young guys and hopefully something we can use to continue developing our team into the future,” said Kramer. “We know that we will have to play our best basketball to compete against this year's field.”
BARNUM: Beckstrand 1 2-2 4, Coughlin 2 0-0 5, Charboneau 4 2-2 13, Wickstrom 3 16-16 22, Nelson 2 2-2 6, Thiry 1 0-0 2, Hurst 0 1-2 1, Gustafson 0 1-2 1. Totals: 13 (FG), 24 for 26 (FT).
NEVIS: Ahrendt 1 2-3 4, D. Lindow 1 0-0 2, Houchin 2 1-1 5, Benson 6 1-1 15, Lester 9 5-5 23, Kramer 0 0-0 0, I. Bessler 0 0-0 0, Lewis 1 0-0 2, Moe 3 0-0 9, Norby 2 0-0 5, E. Lindow 0 0-0 0, Klimek 0 0-0 0, S. Lindow 1 0-0 2, AJ Bessler 0 1-2 1, Norton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 (FG), 10 for 12 (FT).
Halftime: Nevis 39, Barnum 23. Three-pointers: Coughlin 1, Charboneau 3, Benson 2, Moe 3, Norby 1. Team fouls: Barnum 14, Nevis 20.