Boys basketball: Tigers cruise in playoff opener; next stop Somerset

Somerset also finished fourth in the Middle Border Conference at 8-6 record.
Osceola’s Joshua Mork (11) tries to pass around the press applied by Northwestern High School's Nolan Gustafson (33) and Jake Brill (11) in the first half of the Tigers’ 81-34 playoff win Tuesday, March 3, in Maple. (Jed Carlson /

When the Northwestern High School boys basketball team began preparing for its WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal game at Somerset on Friday, March 6, all the Tigers had to do was look in a mirror.

The Tigers (16-7) and Spartans (14-9) have similar records, both teams like shooting 3-pointers, and both teams can speed up a game or slow it down, depending on the situation.

“They’re kind of a guard-heavy team like we are — they like to push the ball and they shoot a lot of threes,” NHS coach Nolan Graff said. “If they want to run up and down the court, we have guys that can do that, but if they want to slow it down, we can do that, too. We can play either style.”

Somerset also finished fourth in the Middle Border Conference at 8-6 record. The Spartans went a combined 1-5 against the top three teams, losing twice to New Richmond (19-3, 13-1) and Prescott (18-4, 13-1), and splitting with St. Croix Central (16-6, 9-5).

Somerset’s top three scorers are all guards, led by senior Ty Madden, 16.6 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. Following are juniors Trae Kreibich (13 ppg) and Melvin Medina Ortiz averages (11.4 ppg). Mason Cook, a 6-foot-2 senior, is the top rebounder with 6.4 a game.


“Most of their offense runs through Madden,” Graff said. “The other guy (Kreibich) is a shooter with a quick release so the keys for us are play pressure defense and take away that first gap pass.”
Northwestern High School's Nolan Gustafson (33) wrestles for the ball as Osceola’s Ashton Measner (34) and Garrett Slater (4) try to force a jump ball in the first half of the Tigers’ 81-34 playoff win Tuesday, March 3, in Maple. (Jed Carlson /

An added incentive for Graff and the Tigers is that they feel they were snubbed at the seeding meeting where Somerset was given the No. 4 seed and Northwestern No. 5.

“We’re upset we didn’t get the No. 4,” Graff said. “We felt we deserved it but we were out-voted and that’s the way it goes. We’re not happy but we’re going to be ready to play.”

Graff had the Tigers ready in their WIAA Division 3 playoff opener against the Osceola Chieftains on Tuesday, March 3, in the NHS gym in Maple.

Northwestern scored the game’s first 10 points and never looked back as it cruised to an 81-34 win.

Jake Brill led the Tigers with 19 points, seven assists and five steals. Fifteen of his points, along with four steals and three assists, came in the first half, which saw Northwestern outscore Osceola 46-21.


The Tigers also got 13 points from Andrew Klobucher, and 12 points each from Jagar Stillson, Dayne Evanson and Monte Mayberry.
Northwestern High School's Monte Mayberry (2) shoots over Osceola’s Joshua Mork (11) in the first half of the Tigers’ 81-34 playoff win Tuesday, March 3, in Maple. (Jed Carlson /

Despite the lopsided score, Brill said the Tigers were able to work on some things in preparation for what they hope is a long run in the playoffs and a return trip to the state tournament.

“We were able to work on some different presses and sets (and) that allows us to become more comfortable with what we want to do,” Brill said. “Now, we just have to come to practice every day and get better. It’s got to be competitive and we have to go at each other, make each other better.”

After scoring the first 10 points, Northwestern took a 36-6 lead on a Mayberry basket, and its largest lead in the first half was 40-8 on two Brill free throws.

Osceola followed with a 7-0 run to get within 42-15, and then the teams traded baskets over the final two minutes of the first half, which ended with Northwestern leading 46-21.

The Tigers jumped all over the Chieftains again at the start of the second half and scored seven of the first nine points.


Brill then dominated the next four minutes when he had a direct hand in 18 straight points by the Tigers. Despite only scoring four points of his own, he dished out five assists, including four 3-pointers (two Klobucher and one each by Evanson and Stillson).

“I’m alway going to try to create for everybody else first,” said Brill, who was also the quarterback on the Tigers’ football team. “If nobody else wants to score, yah, I’ll score, but I want to try to get everybody else involved first.”

Graff added that having Brill run the offense has been a blessing in his two years as the Tigers’ head coach.

“Jake has been ‘Mr. Consistent’ for us,” Graff said. “If you need him to score, he’ll score, if you need him to shut down the opposing team’s best player, he’s going to do it.

“He just steps up with whatever we need that night and tonight we needed him to be aggressive offensively and get to the basket, and he did everything for us tonight.”
Northwestern High School's Jagar Stillson (35) battles Osceola’s Logan Maxon (14) for a rebound in the first half of the Tigers’ 81-34 playoff win Tuesday, March 3, in Maple. (Jed Carlson /

TIGER TALES: Somerset advanced with a 74-47 win over No. 13 Amery. … Friday's winner plays the winner of No. 8 Hayward at No. 1 Prescott on Saturday, March 7. … Klobucher is the Tigers' leading scorer at 14.2 points a game. Right behind are Stillson (9.9 ppg) and Brill (8.4). … Friday’s game will be carried live at WNXR 107.3 FM and at .


Osceola ................ 21-13—34

Northwestern ...... 46-35—81

Osceola — Jacob Hall 1, Joshua Schultz 2, Joshua Mork 7, Blake Slater 2, Logan Maxon 8, Jacksen Daly 2, Colin Krentz 8, Ashton Measner 4. Totals 12 9-15 34.

3-point goals — Mork.

Northwestern — Jake Brill 19, Andrew Klobucher 13, Jagar Stillson 12, Dayne Evanson 12, Monte Mayberry 12, Harrison Nelson 2, Nolan Gustafson 4, Carsen Nykanen 4, Bennett Nelson 3. Totals 29 15-17 81.

3-point goals — Klobucher 3, Mayberry 2, Stillson 2, Evanson.

Girls hoops

The Tigers (21-3) played a WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal game against St. Croix Falls (23-1) on Thursday, March 5, in Amery.

The winner advances to play either Arcadia (21-3) or Prescott (21-3) in the sectional final 7 p.m. Saturday, March 7, in Baldwin-Woodville.

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