'Beulah-ful' moment: The Miners knocked off three undefeated teams to be crowned state champions
GRAND FORKS -- The basketball sat on the rim momentarily. To Jesse Hettich, it seemed like an eternity.
When the ball finally fell through the hoop, it turned out to be the winning points Saturday night in the North Dakota Class B boys high school basketball tournament.
Hettich scored a layup with 11 seconds left to give Beulah the final 51-49 advantage over North Star in the state title game. It was the first Class B boys basketball state title for the Miners, as they dethroned the defending state champions and snapped the Bearcats' winning streak at 53 games.
"It seemed like it was up there on the rim forever," said Hettich, who finished with 10 points. "It hung up there and I didn't know if it was going in or not. It finally rolled in."
Hettich found himself open on the left side as Cody Nelson drove from the right wing into the lane and dropped a pass to him.
North Star's Jake Hagler took the ensuing inbounds pass and drove the length of the court. He got into the lane and put up a shot, but tournament most valuable player Trevor Zacher blocked it as time expired to clinch the win.
"Everybody in the crowd knew who'd get that shot," Beulah coach Jeremy Brandt said. "Our kids did, too. They did a nice job of coming in on him, and that was a huge block by Trevor."
The final outcome was indicative of the entire game, which was close throughout.
North Star held a 39-37 lead entering the fourth quarter. In the final eight minutes, there were six ties, three lead changes and neither team leading by more than two.
North Star's final lead came with 1:36 left when Daniel Grande swished a pair of free throws for a 49-47 advantage. Twelve seconds later, Beulah tied it when Hettich hit a layup on an inbounds pass.
North Star was held scoreless over the final 1:36 and didn't hit a field goal for the final 3:08.
The Bearcats finished 17 of 47 from the field (36.2 percent). Beulah was at 33.3 percent (18 of 54), but held a 5-2 advantage in 3-point baskets.
"If you only give up 51 points, you like your chances," Bearcats coach Jeff Hagler said. "But we didn't shoot the ball well.
"We were tired. Jake and Daniel were missing shots they usually hit. They didn't have the lift they normally do."
Still, North Star seemed on the verge of breaking the game open in the third quarter. The Bearcats went on a 12-2 run to go up 39-32 -- the biggest lead either team enjoyed in the game -- with 2:19 left in the third.
Beulah, however, pulled back within 39-37 when the Miners closed the quarter with an offensive rebound and putback basket by Tyler Murray and a 3-pointer by Zacher.
"We needed a score there," Brandt said. "We couldn't let them get up more. We knew it would have been tough for us the way the game was going. If they had scored again, it would have been a concern."
Zacher's 18 points led Beulah and Casey Duppong added 10.
Beulah went through the tournament by handing the first loss of the season to all three of its opponents -- Central Cass in the quarterfinals, Berthold in the semifinals and North Star in the championship.
Hagler finished with 22 points and Grande 15. The sting for the Bearcats wasn't the end of its two-year winning streak, but the unsuccessful bid for a second straight state title.
"The streak means nothing. It's just a number. This one is the important one," Grande said, looking up at the scoreboard. "It's the state championship. Losing it -- that's a big deal to us."
Beulah 13 26 37 51
NS 17 25 39 49
B: Zacher 6-17 2-2 18, Duppong 3-7 4-4 10, Hettich 4-12 2-2 10, Nelson 2-10 1-2 6, Murray 2-5 0-0 4, Iverson 1-1 0-1 2, Dolbec 0-2 1-2 1. Totals: 18-54 10-13 51.
NS: Hagler 7-24 7-8 22, Grande 5-12 4-4 15, Braun 3-6 0-0 6, Weston 1-1 0-0 2, Larson 1-4 0-0 2, Haugen 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 17-47 13-14 49.
3-pointers: Beulah 5-22 (Zacher 4, Nelson 1), North Star 2-9 (Hagler 1, Grande 1). Total fouls: Beulah 9, North Star 10.Rebounds: Beulah 30 (Zacher 9), North Star 28 (Larson 6). Assists: Beulah 8 (Duppong 2, Hettich 2, Dolbec 2), North Star 7 (Hagler 5).
DeVillers is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.