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Tiger boys win HON title

MAPLE -- The Northwestern High School boys basketball team clinched the Heart O' North Conference title Thursday with a 55-41 win over Barron. It is the first conference championship for the Tigers since 2010. "There's only been four of them sinc...

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Northwestern's Nate Pearson (43) goes up for two in the second half of the Tigers game with Barron in Maple on Thursday night. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

MAPLE - The Northwestern High School boys basketball team clinched the Heart O’ North Conference title Thursday with a 55-41 win over Barron.

It is the first conference championship for the Tigers since 2010.

“There’s only been four of them since we’ve been a part of this conference, so to get our year up there, that’s pretty impressive,” said Northwestern coach David Gustafson.

Northwestern’s other conference titles came in 1984, 2004, 2009 and 2010.

“It’s an honor. All the guys are pretty excited right now,” said senior Nate Pearson. “I can’t compare us to the 2010 state team - Lee Brown, Steve Tecker, Donnie Hissa - but I think we’re clicking at the right time.”

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Northwestern entered the game at 11-1 in the conference, with Barron one game behind at 10-2. The Tigers close the regular season Thursday at Bloomer, but with a two-game lead over Barron they are already assured of the conference title.

“It’s nice. I’ve been going for it for a while,” said Alex Tecker, a three-year starter for the Tigers. “It’s very nice, and it’s relieving at the same time. I know what we were able to do last year without the conference championship, and this year with it I hope we can get that much further.”

The Tigers advanced to the WIAA Division 3 section semifinals last year and finished with a 19-6 record.

Northwestern also had an excellent chance to win the 2015 conference crown.

With two conference games left - against Barron and Bloomer - the Tigers needed just one win to clinch the title.

They lost both.

This year, the Tigers found themselves in the same situation.

“I think that’s what added to my stress levels this week,” Gustafson said. “That thought was in the back of my head because I know Bloomer, who we play Thursday, is playing much better; so that will be a really though game. It’s nice to take care of business tonight to relax a little bit.”

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Against Barron, Northwestern used a mix of inside and perimeter play to gain an advantage.

The Tigers’ play under the basket carried them in the first half. Tecker and Pearson combined to score 18 of Northwestern’s 24 points in the half.

In the second half, Barron centered its defense more firmly in the paint. Pearson and Tecker were held to just one basket apiece, but Northwestern’s guards took advantage at the 3-point line.

“Our shooters, when they’re knocking down shots, it’s very big,” Tecker said. “Our plan is always to have a balanced attack - and if me and Nate are working down low that’s good - but we have a lot of exceptional shooters.”

Northwestern made six 3-pointers in the first nine minutes of the second half and had eight for the night.

David Bethards, who has been hot for the Tigers recently, finished with 12 points - all coming on 3-pointers. Mike Lindsay and Riley Stowers knocked down a pair of 3-pointers each.

Northwestern outscored Barron 31-15 in the second half. Stowers scored all of his 10 points in the second half, and Bethards scored nine of his 12 points.

For the game, Pearson finished with a double-double for the Tigers. He had 13 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Lindsay had five rebounds, four assists and two steals to go with his six points.

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The Golden Bears were led 6-foot-8 Ethan Weaver and 6-foot-6 Rece Dietrich. Weaver finished with 15 points, and Dietrich added 10 points.

“It’s always fun playing against taller players,” said Tecker, who is 6-foot-4. “I look forward to it and take it as a challenge.

“I’ve played against them the last three years, and every time we play them they put up a great fight, obviously. They’re both very talented.”

Dietrich is among the HON leaders in scoring, averaging nearly 20 points per game for Barron. He was held to half that total Thursday and to seven points in the first meeting with the Tigers earlier this season.

Northwestern (16-4, 12-1) ends the regular season Thursday at Bloomer. Barron (14-6, 10-3) hosts St. Croix Falls today and Chetek-WeyerhaeuserThursday.

The WIAA Division 3 boys basketball playoffs begin March 4 for Northwestern. The Tigers, the No. 2 seed, will host either Amery or Spooner.

Pearson said the Tigers are hoping for a return to the sectional semifinals at least.

“We know it will be a challenge, especially with the teams this year in our bracket, but I think we’re up to the task,” Pearson said.

TIGER TALES: The Tigers were undefeated in conference play in 2009 and 2010, when Alex Tecker’s brother Steve played for Northwestern. “He’s been watching. He’s been giving me advice here and there,” Alex Tecker said. “Obviously he’s been through it before, and he told me to keep playing our game.” The 2010 Tigers finished second in the the WIAA Division 2 state tournament.

 

Barron.................................. 26    15   -        41

Northwestern.......................... 24    31   -        55

Barron - Ethan Weaver 15, Rece Dietrich 10, Austin Schake 7, Ryan Erickson 5, Brian Redmond 4.

3-point goals - Erickson.

Northwestern - Nate Pearson 13, David Bethards 12, Alex Tecker 9, Riley Stowers 10, Mike Lindsay 6, Kade Bartelt 3, Matt Lindsay 2.

3-point goals - Bethards 4, Stowers 2, Mike Lindsay 2.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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