Northwestern faces rebuilding year
The starting five in Maple are all new this season, and with the new lineup comes a new offense.
The Northwestern High School boys basketball team is rebuilding after losing six seniors from its 2012-13 team. The Tigers have nine seniors on the roster this year, but none of them held a starting role last season.
"We do have a lot of seniors, but only a few of them have real varsity experience," said Dave Gustafson, Tigers head coach. "They've been with us so they know the things that we want to do, but just playing at this level is new for them."
Among the seniors, Braden Bartelt returns with varsity experience. Gustafson said Trevor Paulus also saw varsity time last year and should make an impact.
Northwestern also has two younger players who will assume starting roles.
One of the newcomers is freshman Alex Tecker.
At 6-foot-3, Tecker is the tallest player on the team this year and will be Northwestern's go-to player under the basket.
"Alex being a freshman, he's always been way bigger and stronger than everybody else," Gustafson said. "So things that he used to be able to get away with, he's not going to be able to now."
Northwestern's other young player, sophomore Nate Pearson, will also spend most of his time in the paint.
"The sophomore and the freshman are going to be starting for us right away," Gustafson said. "We want to get them into live action right away because we're expecting them to be a big part of what we're able to do this year.
"All summer they played with the varsity, and they played really well."
Northwestern lost much of its height with the graduation of Tanner Follis (6-foot-5) and Dylan Jardine (6-foot-7). Jardine led the Heart O' North Conference in rebounding last season and was second in scoring. He averaged 15 points per game for the Tigers.
Northwestern relied on its height and ran its offense through the post last season, but this year the offense will be more guard-oriented.
"We have a lot of different people that can attack the basket, and we're trying a little new offense to take advantage of that," Gustafson said. "Everything's been kind of teaching so far."
When the players have had more time to run the offense, Gustafson said, they will be looking to attack off the dribble and kick the ball back outside if the defense collapses.
Last year, the Barron Golden Bears swept conference play to win the Heart O' North Conference title with a perfect 14-0 record.
The Bears are the top pick again this year with the return of leading scorer Jason Balts, but Gustafson doesn't think conference play will be as lopsided.
"There's going to be six teams -- hopefully, I expect us to be one of them -- and I really think any of them could win on any night," Gustafson said. "I'm guessing the team that wins the conference is going to have two or three losses."
Gustafson said Barron, Chetek, Bloomer, Hayward and Spooner all have a legitimate shot at the title.
"Hopefully, we'll be in the mix when we've got our full crew ready," Gustafson said.
Tiger open with win
The Tigers opened their season Thursday with a 43-32 win over the South Shore Cardinals in the Mackey Tip-Off Classic in Maple.
The Tigers opened the game by scoring the first five points and eventually led 9-3 after the first quarter.
Northwestern opened up a pair of eight-point leads, 11-3 and 13-5, early in the second quarter on two free throws by senior Trevor Paulus and a basket by freshman Alex Tecker.
The Cardinals scored seven straight points to get within 14-12, but the Tigers got a basket from Brayden Bartelt and a free throw from Tecker for a 17-12 lead at halftime.
Adam Ranta and Eric Tuura scored early in the third quarter to get South Shore within 17-16, but the Tigers quickly responded with a 3-pointer by Bartelt and 2-pointers by Steven Kastern and Tecker to increase their lead to 24-16.
The Tigers and Cardinals traded baskets over the next couple of minutes before Northwestern eventually took a 31-25 lead after three quarters.
Northwestern increased its lead to 37-27 on a Nate Pearson basket midway through the fourth quarter.
The Tigers made five free throws down the stretch on their way to winning 43-32.
The Tigers are back in action on Dec. 5 at Spooner.
South Shore 3 9 13 7 -- 32
Northwestern 9 8 14 12 -- 43
11. Luke Freeman G 5-9 Sr.
13. Jeffery Priem G 6-2 Sr.
15. Mitch Graskey F 6-3 Sr.
23. Travis Abrahamzon G 6-0 Sr.
25. Brayden Bartelt G 6-0 Sr.
33. Jared Lind G 5-8 Sr.
35. Trevor Paulus F 6-3 Sr.
43. Nate Pearson F 6-2 So.
45. Tyler Blair G 5-8 Sr.
51. Carter Shelafoe F 6-2 Sr.
55. Alex Tecker C 6-3 Fr.
Thursday, Nov. 21 vs. South Shore, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Bloomer, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 5 at Spooner, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 10 vs. Ladysmith, 7:15 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 13 at Hayward, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 17 at Ashland, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 19 at Cumberland, 7:15 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 27 vs. TBA (at Esko Holiday Tournament)
Saturday, Dec. 28 vs. TBA (at Esko Holiday Tournament)
Monday, Jan. 6 vs. Washburn, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 9 vs. Barron, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 14 at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, 7:15 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 17 vs. Bloomer
Monday, Jan. 20 vs. Mellen, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 23 vs. Spooner, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 28 at Ladysmith, 7:15 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 31 vs. Hayward, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 6 vs. Cumberland, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Grantsburg, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 14 at Barron, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 18 vs. Ashland, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 20 vs. Chetek-Weyerhaeuser, 7:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 25 Regional
Friday, Feb. 28 Regional semifinal
Saturday, Mar. 1 Regional final
Thursday, Mar. 6 Sectional semifinal
Saturday, Mar. 8 Sectional final
March 13-15 WIAA State Tournament (Kohl Center, Madison)