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Prep boys basketball: Tigers look to run the floor

Meanwhile, the Solon Springs Eagles hope to be in the fray at the top of the Indianhead Conference.

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Northwestern’s John Grohn (3) and Jase Nelson (21) tie up Hayward’s Chase McCallum (1) to force a jump ball in the first half of the Tigers game in Maple on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Grohn and Nelson are two of the veteran players who will anchor this year's Tiger team. Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

The Northwestern Tigers have gone from being the hunters to being the hunted.

After finishing the 2020-21 season 19-8 and making it to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 3, Sectional 1 final, the Tigers' talent is definitely not a secret.

The team was ranked No. 4 among WIAA Division III teams in the preseason coaches' poll, said coach Nolan Graff. The last time the Tigers were ranked that high was 2010, and that team lost in the state championship game.

Even though the competition will be prepared for the Tigers, Graff said he's not worried.

"It’s something I don’t really worry about because we’re a senior-driven team — if they were young … it might be something I might worry about a little bit more," he said.

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The Tigers return five seniors, including the Telegram's 2021 Player of the Year Monte Mayberry (first-team all Heart O' North Conference), John Grohn (second-team all HON), Bennett Nelson (honorable mention all HON), C.J. Thompson (second-team all HON) and Mason Dupree. Juniors Jase Nelson (honorable mention all HON) and Cole Lahti round out the squad.

The second-highest scoring team in Division III last season, the Tigers hope to dictate the pace of the game by using their speed and by pressing teams on defense.

"We just feel like if we can get the game moving at a higher tempo a lot of teams can't compete at that tempo for the 36-minute time limit of a game," Graff said.

Much like the Northwestern girls basketball team, the boys lack a classic post player and plan to use their speed and athleticism to overcome that obstacle.

The Tigers open their season at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, at Ashland.

Solon Springs looks to keep building

The Eagles' goal is to be in the Indianhead Conference mix at the end of the season, said coach Marcus Besonen.

The 2020-2021 team made it to the WIAA Division 5 Regional Final, but lost to rival Northwood, 54-38. They finished the year 6-9.

Hurley is hoping to maintain its conference-winning ways with nearly all of its team back, Besonen said. Drummond and Mellen will also be in the fray.

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But the Eagles hope to be right there with them.

The team returns seniors Colby Latvala, Ben Dickenson, Gavin Sellwood and Gage Blaylock; junior Carson Kaunonen; and sophomores Isaiah Kastern, Dylan Taggart, Abe Ahlberg and Owen Smith. Sophomore Kaden Corlett was injured last year, but will make his return to the court, Besonen said.

Kastern will be the team's presence in the post.

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Solon Springs’ Isaiah Kastern (50) rips down a rebound in the first half of the Eagles game with Washburn in Solon Springs Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Kastern is one of five sophomores returning to the Eagles' squad. Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

"He's a good inside-outside player," Besonen said. "But we can work through him underneath and be able to open up opportunities for our other guys getting to the basket off of double-teams and hitting some shots."

Depth is another advantage for the Eagles. Besonen said the team doesn't see a drop-off no matter which of its players are on the floor at a given time.

Shooting is an area Besonen would like to see the Eagles improve on over last year, and he would like the team to have a stronger presence inside.

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The team is guard-heavy with Kastern as its only true post player.

"We don't have a whole lot of height beyond Isaiah. We've got a lot of guards, swingmen, that will be relied on to play defense in the post if we're in foul trouble," he said.

The Eagles open their season at home against Frederic at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Related Topics: BASKETBALLPREP SPORTS
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