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Girls Basketball: Marley Mitchell's free throw sends Nevis to Section 5A championship game

The Tigers defeat Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 48-47, will play Braham to earn the program's first trip to state.

Nevis5AWesChamps.jpg
Members of the Nevis girls basketball team posed with the championship trophy after defeating Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to win the Section 5A West title at Wadena on Wednesday, March 9, 2022.
Contributed / Paul Schroeder

WADENA – Marley Mitchell’s free throw with :01 remaining after being fouled on a drive to the basket gave the Nevis girls basketball team a dramatic 48-47 victory over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Section 5A West final at Wadena on Wednesday, March 9.

The win sends the Tigers to the Section 5A championship game against Braham, which defeated Ogilvie 43-40 in the Section 5A East title game. Tip-off for a state berth is set for 7 p.m. at Little Falls on Friday, March 11.

B-B-E, the No. 1 seed in the West, led 43-41 with 2:38 to play when a 3-pointer by Kayli Bessler at the 2:15 mark and a three-point play by Ava Isaacson with 1:44 to go gave the No. 3-seeded Tigers a 47-43 advantage. Abby Berge’s layup and Harley Roering’s two free throws tied the game at 47-47 with 1:16 left. Bessler was fouled after a steal with :33 left, but missed the front end of a bonus free throw situation. Bessler was able to track down the rebound as the Tigers ran down the clock, setting up Mitchell’s game-winning free throw.

“This win is kind of a big deal for us as far as building our program. Not only are our current players starting to believe in what they can accomplish, our younger girls are watching and want some of what they are seeing. As the saying goes, ‘success builds success,’” said Nevis head coach Paul Schroeder. “All five starters had a good game. We didn't have a weak link. Even though our subs coming off the bench didn't see a lot of extended floor time, the time they did provide was crucial and valuable to our win.”

Entering this Section 5A West title game, Schroeder was a little concerned about B-B-E’s physicality.

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“BBE is a very good team. They have height, quickness and speed. Those three factors have given them an extremely aggressive and effective defensive pressure set,” said Schroeder. “Offensively they can pound the ball inside and are physical. How we react to that pressure and physicality will be the key to how well we play against them.”

Schroeder’s team handled those factors from the start as the Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 lead and stayed in front for the entire first half.

A 3-pointer by Stacey, a putback by Isaacson and a layup by Mitchell set the tone and gave Nevis the early lead and plenty of confidence.

“Honestly, the start of the game was a surprise to me. I knew the girls were going to come out and play hard because they always do. But the game plan was not, ‘Ok, we're going to come out and get a 10-0 lead right away,’" said Schroeder. “In retrospect, I think getting that quick start confirmed the girls’ positive mindset that we can in fact beat this team. That in and of itself was probably the most beneficial part of the quick start.”

Two 3-pointers by Berge sparked a 10-4 run as B-B-E cut the gap to 14-10. The Tigers countered with a 9-2 run as jumpers by Isaacson and Bessler and two layups by Stacey provided a 23-12 advantage. Nevis would carry a 24-16 lead into the intermission.

Despite having the lead at the half, Schroeder knew the second half would be a battle.

“The message at halftime was really profound. ‘It's halftime, that means there's still another half to play,’" said Schroeder. “With that said, I think most of the girls as well as myself were starting to believe that we could pull this off.”

After Isaacson’s putback made it 26-16, the Jaguars responded with an 18-5 run to claim a 32-28 lead with 9:22 to play. Mitchell’s layup and Stacey’s 3-pointer were the Tigers’ only points during that stretch.

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Two free throws apiece by Addison Lindow and Mitchell and a layup by Lindow tied the game at 37-37 with 6:20 remaining. A jumper by Bessler and a layup by Mitchell gave Nevis a 41-39 edge before a pair of layups by Berge gave B-B-E its last lead of the game.

Mitchell (13), Stacey (11), Lindow (9), Isaacson (8) and Bessler (7) led a balanced scoring attack for the Tigers, who overcame 20 turnovers against B-B-E’s press. Isaacson (11), Bessler (8) and Mitchell (7) combined for 26 rebounds while Lindow had six steals. Mitchell and Bessler dished out three assists each as Nevis advances to the section championship game with an 18-8 record. This will be Nevis’ fourth attempt at securing a state berth after finishing as the section runner-up in 1996-97, 2002-03 and 2005-06.

Berge scored 23 of her game-high 33 points in the second half to lead the Jaguars, who ended the season with an 18-10 record.

“I was concerned about BBE's height, quickness and specifically their press. I thought the key to the game would be how the girls handled their press. I truly didn't know how they would do going into the game and let them know that. I only asked them to play loose and confident and not scared and timid. If they were going to play nervous, they wouldn't have much of a chance. They played loose and confident, which ended up being the right choice,” said Schroeder. “I was so impressed with the girls' poise and effort they showed when BBE took the lead late in the second half. That was all them. I was just sitting back and enjoying their grit like an average fan.”

Schroeder is looking forward to the challenge of playing Braham, the No. 1 seed in the East with a 17-12 record, as the Tigers seek their first trip to state.

“On paper and film, they look a lot like us,” said Schroeder. “It has the potential to be another very good game.”

NEVIS: Mitchell 4 5-6 13, Isaacson 3 2-3 8, Lindow 3 3-4 9, Bessler 3 0-2 7, Stacey 4 1-2 11, Carrier 0 0-0 0, DeWulf 0 0-0 0, Forbes 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 for 45 (FG), 11 for 17 (FT).

BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA: B. Fischer 0 1-2 1, Anderson 1 0-0 2, Jaeger 0 0-0 0, Schwinghammer 1 1-2 3, Dingmann 2 0-0 4, K. Fischer 0 2-2 2, Berge 13 5-10 33, Roering 0 2-4 2. Totals: 17 for 56 (FG), 11 for 20 (FT).

Halftime: Nevis 24, B-B-E 16. Three-pointers: Berge 2, Bessler 1, Stacey 2. Team fouls: Nevis 12, B-B-E 18. Fouled out: Dingmann. Rebounds: Nevis 31 (Isaacson 11, Bessler 8, Mitchell 7, Lindow 4, Stacey 1). Assists: Nevis 10 (Mitchell 3, Bessler 3, Stacey 2, Isaacson 1, Lindow 1). Steals: Nevis 11 (Lindow 6, Stacey 3, Bessler 2). Turnovers: Nevis 20, B-B-E 17.

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