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Tiger boys find success in rebuilding year

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Though the Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta boys basketball team started off the season rather slowly, the Tigers managed to finish out the season with a 9-15 record.

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The Tigers opened the season in late November against the 2013-2014 Class A State Tournament repeat champion Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa. Needless to say the rebuilding Tigers didn’t match up so well, losing by over 30 points. Second game of the season, the Tigers were in Montevideo for a contest against the Thunderhawks who finished this season second in West Central Conference North with a 10-4 record. The Tigers lost to the them by over 40 points, and the losing streak continued until they were 0-8 to start the year.

“As a coach, and probably as a player, too, it started to feel like about 0-15, 0-20,” coach Joey Fragodt said at the MA/C-A awards banquet in mid March. “You started to think ‘Are we ever going to win a game?’ but we did rebound.”

The Tigers found their first W at the St. James Holiday Tournament against Springfield in their last game 2013. Their rebound continued, and the Tigers went 9-8 the rest of the season, counting that first win.

“Looking on that note, it was a pretty successful season,” Fragodt said.

“The fact that this team was so inexperienced, having only [Bryce Jergenson] with court time on varsity last season and getting off to that 0-7 start, I felt this team overall had a very successful season,” head coach Mark Torgerson said.

The Tiger went from averaging 47 points per game in the opening five games to averaging 60.5 points per game in the entire 2014 portion to end their season.

“We really started to play some of our best basketball towards the end of the year with our wins versus Breckenridge and Minnewaska,” Fragodt said. “Very well could have been that game versus EV-W, just a little too late to get going in that game.”

Also noteworthy, that second win over Waska lifted the Tigers off the bottom of the conference.

“Nobody ever wants to finish bottom of the conference,” Fragodt continued. “So that was a big win.”

Individual accomplishments were many, according to coach Torgerson.

“Great strides were made because these players worked hard in practice to get better. The team chemistry was a big part of that and overall play improved because of that,” Torgerson said. “So much is left to accomplish with this group if they put in some time in the off season.”

Sophomore center Eric Staebler averaged a double double this season with 20.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game, finishing his first varsity season with 482 points and 281 rebounds.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for a sophomore in his first year of varsity ball,” Torgerson said. “He shot nearly 50 percent from the field, and his 11.7 rebounds per game puts him in the Top 5 in Tiger history for average rebounds per game.”

Junior Noah Grove also developed into a tough offensive player said coach Torgerson, averaging 16.3 points per game. Grove sank 54 three’s for the Tigers, shot 80 percent from the free throw line this season, and was named to the All Sub-Section team for Section 6AA-South. Grove also knocked down career high 31 points in the playoff game against Eden Valley-Watkins to finish the season with 392 points.

Senior Bryce Jergenson also had a great season, leading the Tigers as their captain. Jergenson ended the season and his high school basketball career with team high 63 assists and was the third highest scorer for the Tigers with 123 points on the year behind Staebler and Grove.

“Bryce did a great job as a captain and leader of this team,” Torgerson said. “He played his finest basketball towards the end of the year.”

The MA/C-A Tiger awards were handed out at the winter sports banquet on March 10, and recipients were as follows: Bryce Jergenson (Most Improved), Andrew Goulet (Best Defensive Player), Nathan Anderson (Tiger award), and Eric Staebler (MVP).

West Central Conference honored two Tigers with all conference recognition and one with all conference honorable mention. Stabler and Grove were the all conference recipients and Jergenson was named honorable mention.

The Tigers also had three WCC Performers of the Week this season: Staebler, Grove, and Anderson.

Staebler received that recognition after he poured in 20 points for the Tigers while grabbing 14 rebounds in the Tigers’ win over Milbank.

Grove was a WCC Performer of the Week after a win over Minnewaska with 14 points and 5-5 from the free throw line. Also during that week, in a loss to Montevideo, Grove contributed team high 19 points, hitting four threes.

Coming off an arm injury, Anderson was named a performer of the week beginning of February, hitting 10-for-10 at the free throw stripe in three games.

Tigers graduate just two seniors, Bryce Jergenson and Jason Rinkenberger.

“Returning most of our squad, we should be ready to contend for conference and section titles in the next few years,” Torgerson concluded.

The Tigers will have back junior guard Andrew Goulet, their defensive specialist and next year senior posts Nathan Anderson and C.J. Nagel, who rotated the final starting position all season.

A host of other juniors and a good group of sophomores off the Tiger B Squad should make for a good year of Tiger hoops in 2014-2015.

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