Boys' basketball: Benson and Nielsen share POY honors
A Prescott Cardinal has been named the Middle Border Conference Player of the Year for five straight seasons, but this year's highest honor will be shared.
Prescott's Parker Nielsen and Ellsworth's Logan Benson were awarded co-Player of the Year honors at the conclusion of the 2018-19 regular season after the two star players' superiority over one another was deemed indecipherable.
Benson is the first Ellsworth Panther to win the award this decade. The Panthers' co-captain proved his excellence throughout his senior season in which he averaged 23.1 points (second-best in the MBC), 11.8 rebounds (best) and 2.5 assists (sixth-best) per game. Benson was the only MBC player to average a double-double during the 2018-19 season.
Benson recorded 1,302 points during his four-year varsity career and surpassed former teammate Drake Flom to become the Panthers' all-time leading boys' basketball scorer.
Nielsen, who missed three weeks of the season while recovering from knee surgery, led the league in scoring with an average of 25.6 points per game and finished with the second-best assist average of 4.8 per game after ascending to Prescott's starting point guard role this season. Nielsen also averaged 6.1 rebounds per game in his junior campaign.
After receiving his shared POY honors, Nielsen congratulated Benson on a great season and all of the accomplishments he achieved as a Panther. Nielsen was joined by two of his teammates, Jacob Doffing and Brian Tayson, on the MBC's All-Conference First Team list.
Doffing recorded averages of 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in his breakout season for the Cardinals. The Prescott junior was a force in the paint thanks to his fine-tuned footwork and soaring hook shot and is expected to continue to outperform his opponents in the coming 2019-20 season.
Tayson and Nielsen were the only returning varsity starters for the 2018-19 Cardinals. Like Nielsen, Tayson showed his varsity experience while leading the Cardinals during his senior campaign by popping 3-pointers when needed or by asserting his dominance while driving to the rim. The Prescott co-captain ended his high school basketball career with averages of 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. He leaves Prescott with 680 career points and as a 2017-18 state champion.
The Cardinals finished with an 11-3 MBC record to share the conference title and co-Coach of the Year honors with Rick Montreal's New Richmond Tigers.
"We're very proud of our guys and thought they were very deserving of First Team honors," Prescott's co-Coach of the Year Nick Johnson said. "It just goes to show you how strong of a team we did have."
Ellsworth sophomore Mason Anderson was the only sophomore named to the MBC Second Team after he recorded averages of 14.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals in his first season as a varsity starter. Anderson was known for this 3-point shooting before his sophomore season but also upped his defensive game while developing a larger role with the Panthers.
Ellsworth senior co-captains Erik Lange and Cole Woodland were named to the MBC's All-Conference honorable mention list after their high school basketball careers came to an end. Lange recorded averages of 8.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game as a senior, while Woodland ended his career averaging 8.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.
When asked about his senior leaders, Ellsworth's head coach Jordan Petersen said he will miss their humor, leadership and hard work most of all.
"They are a great group of kids who bought into playing for each other and it showed on and off of the court," Petersen said. "They are extremely unselfish and wanted what is best for the team and for the program. They are exactly what you want in senior leaders who are not only trying to help the team now, but also the future of the program."
Petersen said his seniors were constantly in the gym trying to improve and that it wasn't atypical for him to have to tell them to go home and get some rest.
"They are some of the hardest working seniors I have ever seen," Petersen said. "I could not have asked for a better group of seniors in my first season at Ellsworth."