Spartans land five on All-Area hoop teamJoining Erick Tunell on the 2013 Superior Telegram All-Area Boys Basketball Team are seven seniors and one sophomore. Also nominated were Superior senior Bryan Sanders and Northwestern senior Tanner Follis.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The basketball courts in northern Wisconsin belonged to the seniors this year.
In Superior, a handful of seniors and one sophomore led the way. Four players averaged from eight to 14 points per game and two others led the team in rebounding.
On defense, the Spartans worked together to hassle opponents and force turnovers. Five players finished the season with at least 40 steals.
“As you can see, each kid was a huge piece of the puzzle for us this season,” said head coach Dave Kontny. “Each of these guys brought a different component to our success.”
All five Superior starters also made the A honor roll, Kontny said.
Replacing this year’s seniors will be a challenge for the Spartans. Northwood, Northwestern and Solon Springs find themselves in similar situations.
Solon Springs says goodbye to a player who has been a team leader for three years, and the Evergreens and Tigers both lose their leading scorer and rebounder.
Joining Erick Tunell on the 2013 Superior Telegram All-Area Boys Basketball Team are seven seniors and one sophomore. Also nominated were Superior senior Bryan Sanders and Northwestern senior Tanner Follis.
Members of the team are listed below in alphabetical order.
For the past three seasons, Jacob Dahlberg has patrolled the paint for Solon Springs. He often faced off against taller players, but the senior always found a way to be effective under the basket.
“Jake was the workhorse for us all year,” said Dale Rajala, head coach of the Eagles. “He was the heart and soul of our team. I have never had a more vocal leader who knew exactly what was going on at all times on the floor.”
Dahlberg was a team captain and a three-year starter for Solon Springs. The senior was a strong presence for the Eagles inside, averaging eight points and nine rebounds per game.
He was named to the Indianhead Conference West Division all-conference first team.
“Jake was always willing to take on the opposing team’s best player and always prepared himself and his teammates for battle,” Rajala said. “He was just a force for us in the paint, making up for a lack of height with just brute strength and great fundamentals. I can’t say enough about him. To me he is irreplaceable.”
At 6-foot-1, Ben Erickson couldn’t rely on his height to gain the edge over opponents in the paint. Instead, the senior wore down opponents with his quick reflexes and strength.
“Anyone that watched us play this year knows of Ben’s value,” Kontny said. “What Ben gave us defensively was irreplaceable. His ability to anticipate from our wings’ trapping was second to none, and his strength down low was actually an advantage for us over guys twice as big as him.”
Erickson led the Spartans in steals and was the second leading rebounder on the team. He finished the season with 74 steals — and average of three per game — 104 rebounds and 44 assists. He also averaged 5.5 points per game
Erickson was an honorable mention selection on this year’s Lake Superior Conference All-Conference Team.
The Evergreens lost the element of surprise this year with senior Gage Harwick. He led Northwood in rebounding and scoring in his junior season, so this year, opponents came prepared.
“He always had the toughest job,” said Charlie Vig, head coach of the Evergreens. “He was coming back from last year, so everybody knew he was going to score. He had his work cut out for him under the basket.”
In spite of the extra attention, Harwick averaged double-double for Northwood to again lead the team in scoring and rebound. He averaged 15.7 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game and managed to score his 1,000th career point during his senior season.
“He’s a great floor leader,” Vig said. “The young guys all looked up to him, so hopefully that will rub off.”
Harwick was named Central Lakeland All-Conference as a first-team selection.
Jordan Hughes was Superior’s sixth man this season. The senior gave the Spartans a valuable threat off the bench and provided a spark when he entered the game.
“Jordan’s role was to come off the bench and help us offensively, and he did a great job of that as his numbers indicate,” Kontny said.
Hughes was a clutch 3-point shooter for Superior, making 47 percent of his shots from the arc. He shot 52 percent from two-point range and averaged 8.7 points per game. Hughes also added 26 steals for the season.
“Having a kid who can play that role is very valuable,” Kontny said. “We used his strengths to our advantage, and he did it about as efficiently as anyone could.”
When teams faced off against the Northwestern Tigers this season, they came with a plan to contain Dylan Jardine.
The 6-foot-7 senior led Northwestern in scoring and rebounding and was among the leaders in the Heart O’ North Conference. He finished the year leading the conference in rebounding and was second in scoring.
“He is an athletic big man that can run the floor, post up, or hit the midrange jump shot,” said David Gustafson, NHS head coach. “He spent a lot of time this past summer working on his strength and quickness, which showed on the court and will help as he continues his basketball career at the next level.”
Jardine averaged 15 points per game for the Tigers with a 52.5 percent field goal percentage. He also had 40 blocks for the season and averaged 7.4 rebounds per game.
Jardine scored a season high 29 points in Northwestern’s 63-35 win over Cumberland to open WIAA Division 3 tournament play. He was selected to play in this year’s Minnesota-Wisconsin Border Battle All-Star Game and was named to the HON All-Conference first team.
Derek Kontny led Superior in scoring during a few games this season, but the senior’s biggest contribution was on defense.
“Being 6-3 on the wing defensively and his ability to trap you anywhere on the floor really gave teams a lot of problems,” Dave Kontny said.
Derek Kontny finished the season with 46 steals and forced many more turnovers with his long wingspan.
A hand injury slowed Kontny late in the season, but he senior still averaged 8.5 points per game and shot 33 percent from 3-point range for the Spartans. He also added 76 rebounds and 24 assists.
“Derek always drew one of the opponent’s best defenders because of his athletic ability to rise and shoot over almost anyone,” Dave Kontny said.
Derek Kontny was named to the LSC All-Conference first team.
Superior needs to replace four starters from this season, but with sophomore Nick Mehlum returning, the Spartans have at least one position secured.
“Nick really came on strong down the stretch for us this season and is really going to be a great player,” Kontny said. “He is very diverse offensively and his ability to anticipate on defense are two great characteristics of his game.
“He will be fun to watch the next couple years.”
Mehlum was the second leading scorer for Superior this year, averaging 10.2 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the field. He shot 80 percent from the free-throw line and had 85 rebounds and 50 steals for the year.
As the Tigers’ second-leading scorer, senior Micah Olson provided an extra dimension to Northwestern’s game.
“Micah is a very versatile offensive player,” Gustafson said. “He led the Tigers in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage; with his strength he is able to post up strong on the post, and he is able to attack the basket off the dribble.”
Olson was the second leading scorer and rebounder for the Tigers, averaging 8.6 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game.
“Micah is a great competitor, and we will miss his scoring versatility next season,” Gustafson said.