Going into regionals, everyone is still chasing the 'Running Bucs'
Beach head girls basketball coach Bob Waldal can feel a sense of focus going into the Region 7 Tournament that begins Monday at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
Focusing on the task at hand -- making the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
On the flip side for District 13 champion Beach, every opposing team in Region 7 has been chasing Waldal's 'Running Bucs' for the last three seasons.
"They know they have to remain focused on doing the little things well," Waldal said. "They don't take anything for granted. They aren't going to look by anybody. They want to play well. That's the best thing they've got going for them -- taking pride in the way they played."
Beach leans on a trio of veteran juniors who have played big roles in the team's three straight Region 7 titles.
Forward Cydni Stedman led the team with 16.6 points per game, while point guard Hailee Farstveet adds 15.7 and shooting guard Bailey Waldal averages 13.3. Bailey Waldal led all scorers during the district tournament averaging 21.5 points in two games.
However, this is the first time in three seasons Beach comes into the tournament not ranked in the Class B top 10 poll. The Buccaneers have held the top rank twice and were No. 9 last season. They were ranked at times this year, but sport a 16-5 overall record and finished the regular season outside of the poll.
If the last four games are any indication, the opposing coaches' job of stopping the Bucs has gotten a little harder. In that stretch, Beach is averaging 69.8 points, while allowing 27.8 points -- a point differential of 42 points. They have given up an average of less than 40 points a game this season.
Yet, Bob Waldal knows his team can't take No. 4 seed from District 14 Beulah lightly. The two teams meet in the third game of the quarterfinals at 6 p.m.
"The kids are excited and they should be," Bob Waldal said. "They are playing good basketball right now. They've worked awful hard and it's starting to pay its premium."
One team looking to overthrow the Buccaneers is District 14 champion Dickinson Trinity.
The Titans, however, went through one big distraction this past weekend as the No. 3-ranked Trinity boys basketball team played in the Class B state basketball tournament in Minot, where they finished in fifth place.
Trinity girls head coach Alysia Barman said the team has talked about making sure the girls are focused on the task at hand. The Titans face the No. 4 seed from District 13, Hettinger-Scranton, to open the tournament at 3 p.m.
"The biggest thing right now is we don't look past anybody," said Barman, who was named District 14 Coach of the Year. "We have to take it game-by-game. Hettinger-Scranton is a good team and they can do a lot of good things.
"It's going to come down to a lot of self-discipline for our kids right now. We're very excited with the success our boys have had, but our girls need to remember where their focus needs to be at this time. I thought with the boys regional tournament taking place at our place. That's a distraction in itself, but I was very happy with the way they responded and were focused after that."
Rachel Jahner, a junior point guard, led the Titans in the regular season with 11.1 points per game, while Katelyn Grinsteinner averaged 9.1.
Bowman County came into the District 13 Tournament as the No. 6 seed and climbed to the district championship game, where it lost to Beach 66-46. The Bulldogs will play Killdeer, the No. 3 seed from District 14, at 4:30 p.m.
The two teams have similar starting lineups with strong post presences and guards on the outside that can drain jump shots.
Bowman County's Kit Miller, who averaged 18.5 points throughout the district tournament, will matchup against Morgan LeMieux, a 6-foot junior post that averaged 13.6 points per game during the regular season.
"I think we are evenly matched," Bowman County head coach Pam Fisher said. "We have some height with have guard play. We play a similar style of game. I would expect it will be an awfully good ballgame the first round."
Though Bowman County climbed out of the No. 6 spot to the No. 2 seed from District 13, Fisher said the thing she's been most impressed with is how well her team has gelled at the end of the season. During the regular season, the Bulldogs had seven different players lead the team in points throughout the season.
"We're very pleased with how we came out of the district tournament," Fisher said. "We felt like we had something to prove being the No. 6 seed."
Hazen, the No. 2 seed from District 14, plays District 14's No. 3 seed, Heart River, at 7:30 p.m. to close out the quarterfinal round. The Bison defeated Killdeer in the District 14 semifinals before falling to Trinity, 46-30, in the championship game.
"We are very similar," Hazen head coach John Ward said. "They have a really good point guard and a couple good shooters. Neither team is really big, but we both have some pretty good shooters and play pretty good defense."
Ashton Carter led the Bison with 11.9 points during the regular season, while Rachel Hansana added 7.2 and Dakota Wood supplied 6.1.
Heart River is led by District 13 Senior Athlete of the Year Mary Hlebechuk. The guard averaged 14 points per contest, ranking as one of the region's top scorers.
After losing 10 of its first 11 games, the Cougars came on strong during the second half, winning six.
Just like the District 13 and 14 Tournaments, every coach going into the Region 7 Tournament knows each game is going to be a battle -- no matter the opponent.
"You are going to have to play a couple good games," Ward said. "You are going to have limit mistakes and keep those down to a minimum."