Family sports swap paying off for Superior prep teams
If their adult family members had more influence, perhaps Mitch Kontny and Bettye Jo Nelson would have swapped sports. For the Superior High School boys hockey and girls basketball teams, it's a good thing they didn't. Kontny, whose uncle, Dave, ...
If their adult family members had more influence, perhaps Mitch Kontny and Bettye Jo Nelson would have swapped sports.
For the Superior High School boys hockey and girls basketball teams, it's a good thing they didn't.
Kontny, whose uncle, Dave, coaches the Spartans' boys basketball team, is the leading goal scorer and point producer for the hockey team. Nelson's father, Steve, coached the University of Wisconsin-Superior men's hockey team for 15 years, but she excels on the hardwood.
Kontny's father, John, played hockey for a club team in Ashland and Mitch, who moved to Superior when he was 8, never played organized basketball.
"He's a rink rat; he grew up on an outdoor rink in his backyard," Superior hockey coach Jason Kalin said.
Dave Kontny said he never tried to exert any pull to have his nephew play basketball.
"I love the sport of hockey," said the elder Kontny, who played basketball, football and baseball at Ashland and whose two children play basketball. "It's good to get kids involved in different sports. Hockey is fast, fun to watch and we have a good program here."
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior forward has a team-leading 14 goals and 28 points, but his availability for this week's Wisconsin Sectional 1 playoffs is in doubt after suffering a bone bruise and hairline fracture in his left knee from a knee-to-knee collision with a Crookston player Feb. 5.
As of late last week, Kontny said he wasn't feeling any pain but swelling had kept him from returning to the ice. He's doubtful for Superior's quarterfinal against either Baldwin-Woodville or Webster Area on Thursday.
The Spartans (13-7-1) could use Kontny in their quest for a ninth consecutive state tournament berth.
"Mitch provides us with good offensive skill," Kalin said before his star player's injury. "He heads up our power play and is the man we want to have with the puck."
Without him, the youthful Spartans become even younger.
"We're a young team this year, so we've had to battle through the inexperience," Kontny said. "We're starting to turn it around right now and play some of our better hockey toward the end of the year."
Despite Steve Nelson coaching UWS to nine NCAA Division III tournaments in his last 10 years at the helm, his family background was more rooted in basketball. His father, Donald, was a high school basketball player in the Minneapolis area, and Steve was the only family member to play hockey.
Still, he sent his daughter to skating lessons when she was a youngster.
"I didn't really like that too much," Bettye Jo said.
Once introduced to basketball, that sport proved a better fit after her initial hesitation.
"In sixth grade, I didn't really want to play (basketball) -- I was nervous because I never played sports before -- but I got talked into it and liked it," she said.
The 5-11 junior forward averages a team-high 20.9 points per game for the Spartans (10-7).
"Basketball wasn't something that we discouraged, it's just something she wanted to do more," said her father, who now won't hesitate to leave a UWS game at Wessman Arena and walk across Catlin Avenue to see his daughter play at the Superior High School gym. "Being a coach, my kids had to endure that sacrifice (of me missing their games). I wasn't able to see them play all the time, but now I hope to."