Girls Basketball: Nevis defeats Braham for Section 5A title, first trip to state – Park Rapids Enterprise

LITTLE FALLS – When Paul Schroeder took over as the head coach of the Nevis girls basketball team before the start of the 2018-19 season, he set a goal of contending for the program’s first trip to the state Class A tournament within the next three years .

That mission was completed when the Tigers defeated Braham 38-27 in the Section 5A championship game at Little Falls on Friday, March 11.

The Tigers, the No. 3 seed in the West, had to earn their first state berth by defeating No. 2-seeded Browerville-Eagle Valley 60-51 and No. 1-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 48-47 in the West half of the bracket before capping off their state run by defeating the No. 1 seed in the East.

“For me personally, it’s fulfilling a goal that I set for myself when I took over the coaching position in the 2018-2019 season. I thought at that time we could have a reasonable shot at going to state by this year if all the proper groundwork to do so fell into place as I was planning,” said Schroeder. “Unfortunately, we lost a three-year starter and one of our best players in Makenna Frazier to an ACL injury just prior to this season. I truly believed that this would put my goal of getting the girls to state this year out of reach. Incredibly, the girls dealt with this adversity and still made it to state, which makes it all the more special. As for the girls, they are ecstatic. They achieved beyond what anyone probably expected of them, and that’s something to be very proud of. As for the program, it will obviously pay dividends as we go forward. To what extent? Only time will tell.”

In the Section 5A West title game against BBE, the Tigers gained confidence from the opening tip by jumping out to a 10-0 lead. Nevis took a similar approach in the Section 5A title game by jumping out to an 11-0 advantage and never looking back.

The Tigers relied on their defense to build a 19-3 lead before carrying a 19-7 advantage into the intermission to claim their first section title in four tries.

“Our defense is something we feel we can always fall back on when we are not shooting or performing like we could be offensively. We can play defense more consistently because it’s more of an effort and knowledge of responsibilities versus the precision it takes to get the ball through the hoop some days,” said Schroeder. “Our early leads in the past two games mainly stemmed from them (BBE and Braham) being somewhat confused by the defense we set up for them. In both situations, we played a specific zone defense for the offense they were running. They both figured it out eventually, but in both situations it enabled us to get a quick start.”

Three-pointers by Kayli Bessler and Mya Stacey and jumpers by Ava Isaacson and Marley Mitchell produced the 11-0 lead with 11:23 to play in the first half. Three-pointers by Bessler and Stacey and two free throws by Stacey made it 19-3 at the 6:55 mark. The Tigers didn’t score again the rest of the half, but still maintained a 12-point cushion.

Mitchell’s layup to open the second half extended the lead to 21-7, but the Bombers went on a 14-5 run to cut the gap to 26-21. Isaacson hit a 3-pointer and a jumper for Nevis’ points during that stretch. The Tigers regained control as Bessler followed a three-point play with a 3-pointer for a 32-21 advantage with 5:32 to play. Jumpers by Addison Lindow and Isaacson and a layup by Isaacson sealed the win.

Bessler posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while Isaacson finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Lindow had six assists and joined Stacey with four steals. Mitchell also grabbed six rebounds as the Tigers improved to 19-8 and claimed their first trip to state after falling short in section championship games during the 1996-97, 2002-03 and 2005-06 seasons.

Madison Davis’ 12 points and Nikki Duvernay’s 10 points and 10 rebounds led Braham, which ended the season with a 17-13 mark. Nevis’ defense limited the Bombers to only 19.1% shooting from the field (9 for 47, including 4 for 25 on 3-pointers) while forcing 18 turnovers.

“I think there were some butterflies and nerves working to be sure, but I believe the girls, as well as myself, felt cautiously optimistic going into the Braham game. We just had beaten a very good Browerville team and a very good BBE team,” said Schroeder. “We thought we were a better team than Braham going in, but we discussed and realized that Browerville and BBE probably had that same thought going into their game with us, and look what happened to them. Thus, cautiously optimistic. The one thing that I stressed heavily to the girls is that they had to play loose and confident. They did not get the option to play scared or timid.”

NEVIS: Mitchell 2 0-0 4, Isaacson 5 1-2 12, Lindow 1 0-0 2, Bessler 4 1-2 12, Stacey 2 2-2 8, DeWulf 0 0-0 0, Wallace 0 0-0 0 Totals: 14 for 48 (FG), 4 for 6 (FT).

BRAHAM: DAvis 3 3-4 12, Zimpel 1 –0 3, Kuhnke 1 0-0 2, Duvernay 4 2-4 10. Totals: 9 for 47 (FG), 5 for 8 (FT).

Halftime: Nevis 19, Braham 7. Three-pointers: Isaacson 1, Bessler 3, Stacey 2, Davis 3, Zippel 1. Team fouls: Nevis 13, Braham 10. Rebounds: Nevis 34 (Bessler 12, Mitchell 6, Isaacson 6, Lindow 5, Stacey 3, DeWulf 2). Assists: Nevis 12 (Lindow 6, Bessler 4, Isaacson 1, Stacey 1). Steals: Nevis 11 (Lindow 4, Stacey 4, Bessler 3). Blocked shots: Nevis 2 (Isaacson 1, Bessler 1). Turnovers: Nevis 15, Braham 18.

Tigers ready for first trip to state

The Tigers will make their state debut by playing No. 3-seeded Hancock (27-1) in the quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion on the campus of the University of Minnesota at 5 pm on Thursday, March 17.

The other state Class A quarterfinals pit No. 1-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl (27-3) against Minneota (26-4), No. 2-seeded Mayer Lutheran (26-4) against United Christian Academy (23-4) and No. 4-seeded Cass Lake-Bena (28-2) against No. 5-seeded Hayfield (31-0).

Williams Arena will host the semifinals and Concordia-St. Paul will host the consolation semifinals on Friday, March 18. The Class A championship, third-place and consolation championship games will be played on Saturday, March 19.

Schroeder is focusing on enjoying the moment as the Tigers prepare to take the big stage.

“The girls were aware of my goals from the beginning in 2018-2019. As strange as it may sound, even though this was a goal I wanted the girls to achieve, it was not a team goal that we set for ourselves to achieve at the beginning of the season. Our team goals and discussions dealt more with our effort given, our attitudes, playing as a team and studying a lot of film together. All of which the girls met and exceeded in my opinion,” said Schroeder. “Saying the girls are excited is probably an understatement. Now that we are going to state, the competition will be fierce. Our goals will have nothing to do with winning or losing. We will set our team goals very similar to our season goals – effort, attitudes and playing as a team. We will try to play loose and confident versus scared and timid. I will try to stress the importance of enjoying this time more than anything else to the girls. You never know for sure if you’ll ever get a chance to return. Play hard, make the most of it and let the chips fall where they may.”

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