New faces make up 2014 All-Area Basketball Team
It was a year of fresh faces and first-year starters for many local boys basketball teams this year.
Solon Springs, Northwestern and Superior all had high turnover rates to contend this season. The Spartans and Tigers had no returning starters, and the Eagles had three starting positions to fill.
“Losing 11 seniors over the last two years left huge question marks for this team going into the season,” Solon Springs coach Dale Rajala said. “These players stepped up and helped this team exceed expectations and gave us a very respectable year.”
Joining Player of the Year Daniel Gengenbach on the 2014 Superior Telegram All-Area Boys Basketball Team are two teammates from Solon Springs, three Spartans and four Tigers.
Members of the team are listed below in alphabetical order.
The Superior High School boys basketball team had some rebuilding to do this season after losing six seniors from last year’s team.
Most of the players were new to the varsity level, but senior Carter Anderson gave the Spartans a dose of experience at point guard.
“I always felt comfortable with the ball in Carter’s hands and trusted his decision making,” SHS coach Jake Smith said. “He is the type of player that can knock down the three or make the extra pass for an open teammate.
“Another great attribute of Carter is his ability to finish at the basket. Carter never backed down and took it to the rim relentlessly.”
Anderson finished the season averaging 11.8 points and 2.8 assists per game. He shot 40.5 percent from 3-point range and 81.5 percent from the free-throw line. Anderson also added three rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
“Teams really had to key on Carter, and he was still able to produce consistently night in and night out,” Smith said. “It was hard to take him off the floor.”
Anderson was named to the Lake Superior Conference All-Conference second team and was picked to play for Team Wisconsin in the annual Border Battle game.
Like Superior, the Northwestern Tigers had an all-new lineup this season. Many players had previous varsity experience, but none came into the season as the go-to guy.
“The first half of the season we were missing a player we could count on when we needed a basket; we didn’t have a go-to guy,” Northwestern coach David Gustafson said. “Brayden became this player for us. He has a great work ethic and led his teammates by example.”
Bartelt led Northwestern in scoring and assists this season at guard. The senior averaged 11.1 points and 3.5 assists per game, ranking him fifth in the Heart O’ North Conference in scoring and first in assists.
For the season, Bartelt shot 41 percent from behind the arc and held a 2-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio.
“Brayden is an all-around great player,” Gustafson said. “He can defend, takes care of the ball, can attack the basket and shoot the three.”
Bartelt was a team captain for the Tigers this season and was named to the HON All-Conference first team.
“Austin was one of the most hard-working, tenacious players I have ever coached,” Solon Springs coach Dale Rajala said. “This is a player that every coach wants on their team.”
Khalar brought his game to a new level in his senior and matured as a player and a person, Rajala said. The senior guard averaged 9.2 points per game and four rebounds per game this season.
“Seeing him transform into such a responsible and accountable player/student was one of the highlights of my time here in Solon,” Rajala said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Austin Khalar.”
The Eagles will have trouble replacing Khalar on defense next season. He had 60 steals on the year and provided intense on-the-ball pressure.
“He was our floor leader and pushed his teammates to never leave anything out on the floor,” Rajala said. “He set very high standards for our young players to follow.”
Khalar was an honorable mention selection for the Indianhead All-Conference team.
The Spartans had a quick-footed team this season, but one of the fastest players was junior Jake Libal.
“Jake played at a high level all year long both offensively and defensively,” Smith said. “He is definitely one of the quickest kids I have ever seen, which really made him a matchup nightmare. He was able to take his guy off the dribble, and his ability to finish at the basket is top notch.”
Libal averaged 11 points, 1.6 steals and two rebounds per game this season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and chipped in one assist per game.
Smith was also impressed by Libal’s perimeter shooting. The junior improved throughout the year and finished the season shooting just under 30 percent from the arc.
“You take a kid with that amount of quickness and the ability to shoot the ball the way he can and you have a kid that is tough to guard,” Smith said. “I think Jake is only going to continue to get better as he finishes out his career. I was always amazed watching him chase down ball handlers and literally just take the ball away from them. He would always make a play that would just awe you based on his quickness and athleticism.”
Libal was named to the LSC All-Conference second team.
The Eagles are losing a number of key seniors this year, but with Logan Long returning next season Coach Rajala can breathe easy.
“Logan is an amazing athlete,” Rajala said. “He made some plays out there this year that just stunned everybody. He literally took games over and carried this team on his shoulders in some great battles this season.”
Long, a junior, averaged 12.1 points per game and five rebounds per game for the Eagles this season. He also headed up Solon Springs’ defense with 3.2 steals per game.
“Logan is going to have to step up and lead us next year,” Rajala said. “We lost some great leaders in Daniel, Austin and CJ Zamzow. We are expecting some big things from him next season.”
Long was an honorable mention selection for the Indianhead All-Conference team.
The Tigers began this season with a void to fill in the paint, but senior Trevor Paulus put in the time to give Northwestern a solid option under the basket.
“Trevor spent a lot of time working on his game from last year, and it really showed on the floor,” Gustafson said.
Paulus was Northwestern’s second-leading rebounder, averaging five boards per game. The 6-foot-3 forward finished the season ranked tenth in the HON Conference in rebounding.
Paulus also chipped in 9.3 points per game. The senior played his best game of the season in the Tigers’ regional quarterfinal game against St. Croix Central, where he scored 21 points.
“He is a multidimensional player,” Gustafson said. “He can attack the basket off the dribble, shoot the three and developed a solid pull-up jumper this season.”
Paulus was an HON All-Conference honorable mention selection and served as one of the Tigers’ team captains this season.
Following a strong season on the gridiron, Nate Pearson continued to impress in his sophomore year with another fine season on the basketball court.
Pearson led the Tigers in rebounding with an average of 6.5 per game and ended the year as the fourth-leading rebounder in the HON Conference. Pearson also broke into the conference standings in assists, tying with teammate Jeffrey Priem for 10th place with just over two assists per game.
“Nate has a tremendous work ethic,” Gustafson said. “If you put him in a gym with anyone he would be the hardest worker on the floor.”
Pearson averaged 8.7 points per game, shooting 57.4 percent from the field. He scored a season-high 22 points against Mellen.
Pearson was an HON All-Conference honorable mention selection this year.
To his teammates, he was known as “Pick your Pocket Priem.”
To opponents, Jeffrey Priem was simply known as a headache.
“Jeffrey was blessed with long arms that made him a tremendous defensive player,” Gustafson said.
Priem led the Tigers on defense with 2.5 steals per game this season. The senior also averaged 10 points per game, shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range.
“As well as causing nightmares from the person he was guarding Jeffrey was a versatile offensive player,” Gustafson said. “He could attack the basket, hit the pull-up jump shot or knock down the 3-point shot.”
Priem was 10th in the HON in scoring and also tied with teammate Pearson for 10th in assists with 2.1 per game. He scored a season-high 20 points against Cumberland, and finished the year shooting 77.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Priem was named to the HON All-Conference second team.