Boys Basketball: Nevis made a surprising run to state tournament

The Tigers defended their Section 5A title, captured the consolation title at the state Class A tournament to cap off a 26-7 season.

JohnPaul Benson (15) received Northland Conference honors after leading the Tigers by hitting 91 3-pointers and averaging 13.0 points a game during the 2022-23 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Before the season started, Scott Kramer wasn’t sure how long it would take for the Nevis boys basketball team to click with three players taking over as starters and the reserves taking on different roles.

By the end of the season, the Tigers had melded into a cohesive unit. Nevis won 16 of the final 17 games to share the Northland Conference title, repeat as Section 5A champions and bring home the consolation trophy from the state Class A tournament to cap off a 26-7 season.

“I thought our season was a huge success,” said Kramer, who was named the Class A Coach of the Year while Bill Dent was named the Class A Assistant Coach of the Year. “We came into the season needing to replace three starters and our bench guys, and we were able to do that.”

The Tigers started the season with wins over Menahga (75-38), Northland (53-50 in overtime), Park Rapids (61-48) and Laporte (89-21 in the conference opener and a section game).

Nevis split the next 10 games, starting with a win over BOLD (71-51) and a loss to Mountain Iron-Buhl (84-71) at the Granite City Classic. The Tigers defeated Blackduck (60-43 in a conference game), lost to Cherry (83-71), defeated Red Lake (86-61) and Northome-Kelliher (92-39) in conference games, lost to Fosston (57-37), topped Cass Lake-Bena (65-58 in a conference game) and lost to East Grand Forks Sacred Heart (71-66) for a 9-5 record.


“Early in the season, we took our lumps getting our lineup and identity figured out,” said Kramer. “After the Sacred Heart loss, we were just 9-5, but then we won 15 of 16 which got us to the state tournament.”

An eight-game winning streak followed the loss to Sacred Heart as the Tigers defeated Verndale (73-42 in a section game), Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (91-42 in a conference and section game), Pine River-Backus (70-46 in a conference and section game), Laporte (74-50), Blackduck (73-57 in a conference game), Red Lake (76-61) and Browerville-Eagle Valley (61-47 in a section game).

Alex Lester (25) was named to the 2023 state Class A All-Tournament Team and was named the Northland Conference's Rookie of the Year after averaging 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds a game for the Tigers.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

A 98-83 loss to Cass Lake-Bena ended that streak and prevented the Tigers from winning the conference title outright. Nevis ended the regular season with wins over Mahnomen/Waubun (53-48), W-H-A (93-24), PR-B (68-56) and N-K (92-54).

Nevis finished 13-1 and CL-B ended at 12-1 to top the conference standings. PR-B (8-5), Blackduck (8-6), Red Lake (7-7), W-H-A (4-10), N-K (1-12) and Laporte (1-12) rounded out the conference standings.

After going undefeated against section opponents, the Tigers received the No. 1 seed in the West for the Section 5A tournament. Nevis rolled through the section tournament by defeating No. 9 W-H-A 93-39, No. 4 Swanville 90-62 and No. 3 B-EV 49-35 before repeating as section champs for the third year in a row with a 68-54 win over Barnum, the No. 1 seed in the East.

At their fifth trip to the state Class A tournament, the Tigers lost to No. 1-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 80-62 in the quarterfinals before defeating Border West 63-55 in the consolation semifinals for the program’s first win at state. Nevis capped off the season by defeating Sacred Heart 62-47 in the consolation championship game.

“Repeating as conference and section champs was a bit of a surprise considering how young and inexperienced we were. As far as conference play was concerned, we knew Cass Lake had a good core coming back, and Blackduck and Pine River both would have teams with cores of seniors. We were able to beat Cass Lake on their home floor early in the conference schedule to build a lot of confidence and that led us to running the table in the conference until our second meeting with Cass Lake, where we lost to them at home,” said Kramer. “Browerville was the team to beat in Section 5 coming into the season, and we worked hard to close the gap between their experience and our youth. When we met in February, we figured it was a preview of the 5A West title game. We got the win then and were able to follow up with our best defensive game of the year in the West title game. Blackduck and Pine River had veteran teams in the conference and Browerville had a very good nucleus returning, but we were able to just get it done against those teams where you would've thought that this would be their time to take advantage of their upperclassmen.”

Scott Kramer was named the Class A Coach of the Year after guiding Nevis to a 26-7 record and the state consolation title during the 2022-23 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

The Tigers averaged 70.8 points a game while allowing 53.4 points a night. Nevis shot 46.6% from the field (850 for 1,825, including making 228 of 660 3-pointers) and 63.6% on free throws (410 for 645) while averaging 8.3 turnovers a game.


Paving the way for a successful season were the two returning starters – juniors JohnPaul Benson and Joe Houchin – along with senior Spencer Lindow; juniors Austin Ahrendt, Christian Moe and Eli Lewis; sophomores Alex Lester and Devan Lindow; and freshman AJ Bessler. Ahrendt, Lester and Devan Lindow took over the other starting spots while Spencer Lindow, Moe and Lewis were the first reserves off the bench.

Lester was named the Northland Conference Rookie of the Year and was joined on the all-conference team by Ahrendt, Benson and Devan Lindow. Houchin and Spencer Lindow were all-conference honorable mention selections.

Benson averaged 13.0 points a game, scoring 415 points (with a high of 26) and made 91 3-pointers in 32 games to lead the Tigers. Benson also had 143 rebounds, 37 steals, 34 assists and 24 blocks.

Lester led the Tigers by averaging 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots a game while finishing second in scoring at 12.9 points a game. In 33 games, Lester had 425 points with a high of 23, 249 rebounds, 46 blocks, 30 assists and 19 steals.

Ahrendt was third in scoring at 12.0 points a game, scoring 371 points (with a high of 23) in 31 games. Ahrendt also had 124 rebounds, 64 assists and 58 steals.

Austin Ahrendt (1) averaged 12.0 points a game and earned Northland Conference honors for Nevis during the 2022-23 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Houchin chipped in 8.3 points a game with a high of 17. Houchin scored 258 points and had 86 rebounds, 59 assists and 36 steals in 31 games.

Devan Lindow led Nevis with 164 assists and 72 steals while scoring 252 points (7.6 per game) with a high of 18. Lindow also was second on the team with 147 rebounds while playing in all 33 games.

Spencer Lindow made 50 3-pointers while scoring 233 points for an average of 7.3 per game and a high of 21. Lindow also chipped in 121 rebounds, 40 assists and 25 steals in 32 games.


Moe averaged 5.9 points a night, scoring 194 points with a high of 20 in 33 games. Moe also had 43 assists, 38 rebounds and 24 steals.

Lewis finished with 43 points, 26 rebounds and 19 assists in 25 games while AJ Bessler had 48 points, 36 rebounds and 12 assists in 20 games.

Others who saw some varsity action were junior Lealan Norby (33 points in 13 games); sophomores Isaac Bessler (13 games), Eli Lindow (11 games), Eli Klimek (12 games), Noah Kramer (11 games), Caleb Norton (six games) and Mason Lunde (one game); and freshman Ethan Buckholtz (four games).

Devan Lindow (2) led the Tigers with 164 assists and 72 steals while averaging 7.6 points a game in earning Northland Conference honors during the 2022-23 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

The experience gained during the postseason run will only benefit the Tigers in their quest to repeat as conference and section champs next season.

“It is extremely exciting as we return 15 of our 16 guys for next season. Our lone senior, Spencer Lindow, ends his career by being a part of program history. After a tough start to the year in the shooting department, Spencer never gave up and his determination paid off as he was an important piece to our tournament puzzle as he made some big shots and came up with a number of big plays to help us get our first wins at state in program history,” said Kramer. “After the success of our state tournament experience, our guys are extremely motivated to get to work for next season. With the fact that we are returning everyone except Spencer, we have every reason to be optimistic. With our depth, our guys will really push each other to compete for playing time, and that in itself is going to make us a better team. Our guys obviously want to make another run at the state tourney next year and hope to improve when we get there.”

Nevis statistics

Scoring average: Benson 13.0, Lester 12.9, Ahrendt 12.0, Houchin 8.3, D. Lindow 7.6, S. Lindow 7.3, Moe 5.9, Lunde 3.0, Norby 2.5, AJ Bessler 2.4, I. Bessler 2.0, Lewis 1.7, E. Lindow 1.1, Buckholtz 1.0, Klimek 0.8, Kramer 0.8, Norton 0.3.

Points: Lester 425, Benson 415, Ahrendt 371, Houchin 258, D. Lindow 252, S. Lindow 233, Moe 194, AJ Bessler 48, Lewis 43, Norby 33, I. Bessler 26, E. Lindow 12, Klimek 10, Kramer 9, Buckholtz 4, Lunde 3, Norton 2.

Field goals: Lester 154-278, Benson 149-339, Ahrendt 132-261, Houchin 100-182, D. Lindow 94-204, S. Lindow 81-217, Moe 66-159, AJ Bessler 21-45, Lewis 18-40, Norby 13-27, I. Bessler 9-26, E. Lindow 4-7, Klimek 3-7, Kramer 3-17, Norton 1-4, Buckholtz 1-5, Lunde 1-7.

3-pointers: Benson 91-221, S. Lindow 50-172, Moe 40-101, D. Lindow 15-33, I. Bessler 7-23, Houchin 7-28, Norby 5-14, Lewis 5-22, Kramer 3-14, Ahrendt 2-11, Lester 1-2, Lunde 1-5, AJ Bessler 1-9, E. Lindow 0-1, Norton 0-2, Buckholtz 0-2.

Free throws: Lester 116-178, Ahrendt 105-175, Houchin 51-80, D. Lindow 49-79, Benson 26-35, Moe 22-31, S. Lindow 21-35, AJ Bessler 5-10, E. Lindow 4-4, Klimek 4-6, Buckholtz 2-2, Norby 2-3, Lewis 2-5, I. Bessler 1-2.

Rebounds: Lester 249, D. Lindow 147, Benson 143, Ahrendt 124, S. Lindow 121, Houchin 86, Moe 38, AJ Bessler 36, Lewis 26, Klimek 14, D. Lindow 11, Norby 10, I. Bessler 9, Kramer 7, Norton 4, Buckholtz 3.

Assists: D. Lindow 164, Ahrendt 64, Houchin 59, Moe 43, S. Lindow 40, Benson 34, Lester 30, Lewis 19, AJ Bessler 12, Klimek 9, I. Bessler 9, E. Lindow 8, Kramer 3, Norby 3.

Steals: D. Lindow 72, Ahrendt 58, Benson 37, Houchin 36, S. Lindow 25, Moe 24, Lester 19, Norby 7, AJ Bessler 7, E. Lindow 6, Lewis 4, I. Bessler 1.

Blocked shots: Lester 46, Benson 24, D. Lindow 13, Houchin 5, AJ Bessler 4, Ahrendt 3, S. Lindow 2, I. Bessler 1, Lewis 1, Moe 1, Norby 1.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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