Tigers relying on defense to be competitive

Defense will be the key to success for the Nevis girls basketball team this season. Mike Lien begins his second season as the Tigers' head coach with only four letterwinners returning from last year's team that finished 7-7 in the Northwoods Conf...

     Defense will be the key to success for the Nevis girls basketball team this season.

     Mike Lien begins his second season as the Tigers’ head coach with only four letterwinners returning from last year’s team that finished 7-7 in the Northwoods Conference and 11-14 overall. Being counted on to lead the Tigers are juniors Hannah Bliss (5-10 forward), Jordyn Lucas (5-1 guard) and Alexis Poncelet (5-6 forward) and sophomore Emma Bliss (5-9 forward).

     Hannah Bliss was second on the team in scoring at 15.4 points a game and led the Tigers with 291 rebounds last season. Bliss made 160 of 334 field goals (47.9 percent) and 66 of 124 free throws (53.2 percent) in scoring 386 points in 25 games. Bliss also had 37 steals, 20 assists and 19 blocked shots.

     Lucas averaged 5.4 points a game by making 51 of 137 field goals (37.2 percent) and 27 of 59 free throws (45.8 percent) for 129 points. Lucas led the team with 79 assists and 70 steals while grabbing 49 rebounds in 24 games.

     Emma Bliss played in 24 games and averaged 2.4 points a game, making 21 of 65 shots (32.3 percent) and 16 of 36 free throws (44.4 percent) for 58 points. Bliss also had 112 rebounds, 20 steals and 11 assists.


     Poncelet played in 19 games and averaged 2.0 points a night. Poncelet made 14 of 41 field goals (34.1 percent) and 10 of 23 free throws (43.5 percent) in scoring 38 points. Poncelet also had 49 rebounds.

     Looking to fill in for last year’s senior crew of Megan Norby (22.8 points a game, 224 rebounds, 59 steals in 25 games), Diana Schuldt (3.7 points a game, 95 rebounds, 42 steals in 24 games) and Angel Wolf (2.2 points a game, 42 rebounds, 30 steals in 20 games) will be seniors Ruby Vedbraaten (5-4 guard) and Lindsey Bennett (5-11 forward); juniors Becca Nelson (5-8 guard) and Katya Ahrendt (5-11 forward); sophomore Madisyn Lucas (5-1 guard); and freshman Analeise Ahrendt (5-6 guard).

     “We will be fairly inexperienced on the varsity this year due to replacing three starters from last year’s squad and trying to fill the scoring void they left behind. With that being said, defense will be the key to our season’s success as I don’t see us matching up well in high-scoring affairs,” said Lien. “We will be scrappy and hard-nosed defensively with quick guards looking to disrupt the opponents’ offensive rhythm. This will be key as we lack team height and will rely on our ability to turn the opponent over at a high rate. Turnovers were our Achilles heel last year, so if we can find a way to limit those, we should be competitive with every team on our schedule. I have a good group of girls who are willing to work hard day in and day out to become better individually and as a team.”

     Last season, the Tigers tied for fourth place in the conference and earned the No. 7 seed in the north for the Section 5A playoffs. Nevis opened with a 66-53 win over No. 10 Northland before being eliminated with a 70-57 loss to No. 2 Verndale.

     Lien is hoping the Tigers can give Clearbrook-Gonvick, Pine River-Backus and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley a run in the conference and battle Browerville, Verndale, Sebeka and PR-B in Section 5A.

     “I expect us to be competitive in the conference with a top 3 finish being the season-ending goal,” said Lien, who will be assisted by Jenny Travis and Megan Winter. “Section 5A will be tougher than nails this year. The team goal is to finish in the top 4 and host a first-round playoff game.”

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