Fargodome trying to prove it's worthy, Hettinger celebrates title team, Malzer explodes
FARGO - Bismarck may be built for 'the B' but Fargo is trying its best to prove it is just as suitable of a location to host the crown jewel of North Dakota state tournaments.
In just its fourth year hosting the Class B boys basketball state tournament, the Fargodome has made strides in its presentation and the fans are giving their seal of approval. Attendance for day one of the tournament peaked around 5,000 for Thursday's night session and hit 6,000 on Friday night, which tournament officials considered a fine number due to the rising costs of travel.
Ed Lockwood, the chairman of the Metro Area Tournament Committee - the group of individuals responsible for organizing the tournament - said few fans vocally disagree with putting the tournament on the east border. He added there have also been more congratulations than complaints about the Fargodome's setup, which once caused a problem with spectators.
Mott-Regent athletic director Rod Meier was Regent's athletic director when New England-Regent reached the Class B state tournament at the Fargodome in 1997. He feels the committee has made substantial strides in hosting its tournament.
"It's a lot better than when we were here in '97," said Meier, who believes fans did not like the way the bleachers were set up in past years.
Still, representatives from western teams have mixed feelings when it comes to playing the tournament at the Fargodome.
Watford City coach Randy Cranston was pleased his team beat Mott-Regent on Thursday night, mostly because it means the Wolves will have some extra help in the stands.
Even though Watford City's side of the arena was mostly full Thursday night, Cranston said several Wolves fans didn't plan on making the trip to Fargo unless the team won its first game.
"You can't just go down there for one day and watch," Cranston said. "You have to go down there, stay overnight and make it a long weekend, where people probably aren't capable of making it a whole weekend."
Watford City had the longest trip to Fargo. Wolves fans drove six hours and 380 miles to get to the games. Mott-Regent fans made the second-longest journey, driving anywhere from 305 to 330 miles to get to the tournament.
By comparison, fans from both towns could take day trips to attend games at the Bismarck Civic Center if they desired.
"Our gripe is: Why isn't it centrally located?" Cranston said. "One team has to drive 30 miles and one team has to drive almost 400 miles."
Mott-Regent athletic director Rod Meier said losing in the opening round of the tournament was not helpful to Mott-Regent's attendance, but he was impressed with the overall amount of fans that made the trip.
"I was happy about what we had," said Meier, who added he believes the best choice to hold the Class B state tournament is in Bismarck. "I think everybody's glad we're here."
While the Bismarck Civic Center is the favorite venue among Class B fans, it's won't be hosting the boys basketball state tournament until at least 2011. The Minot State University Dome is down to host the event for the next two years.
Hettinger celebrates 25th anniversary of title
Todd Shirek was a junior and a sixth man for the Hettinger Black Devils when the team won its first and only boys basketball state championship in 1983.
He stood at center court of the Fargodome with eight of his former teammates as they were honored on the 25th anniversary of their title during the Watford City-Grafton semifinal game on Friday night.
"I don't know if we were the best team, but we won the tournament," said Shirek, who is also working at the tournament as an analyst for Dickinson radio station KDIX.
It was the second year in a row John Butterfield stood at center court as a member of a team being honored. Last year, the Mott-Regent head coach was honored as a member of the 1957 Hettinger state championship team on the 50th anniversary.
Richardton-Taylor coach Bill Butterfield, John's son and an all-state player the year the Black Devils won the title, was proud to stand by his father during the introduction.
"Coming back to this atmosphere, it gets things pumping," Bill Butterfield said as he patted his chest.
Malzer lights up the scoreboard
Turtle Lake-Mercer junior Cameron Malzer is leaving little doubt as to who the big-game performer is in this year's state tournament.
Malzer, a 6-foot guard, scored 26 points against Minot Ryan in the quarterfinals on Thursday and put up 25 in the Trojans' 71-58 victory over LaMoure in Friday's semifinal game. Turtle Lake-Mercer plays Grafton at 7 p.m. today in the championship game.
"It's just a big stage," Malzer said. "I have just been really focused in this tournament."