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Press Photo by Royal McGregor Hazen senior forward Austin Cieslak, left, looks to hit a jump shot against Dickinson Trinity junior forward Brett Mortenson, right front, during the Region 7 Tournament semifinals on Tuesday at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

Hazen rolls past Trinity: Cieslak scores 27 as Bison top Titans, reach Region 7 title game

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The Coal Bowl is coming to the hardwood for the Region 7 championship game.

Hazen senior Austin Cieslak made sure of it.

Cieslak dominated on both ends, putting up 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds as the No. 3-seed Bison denied No. 2-seed Dickinson Trinity from making its sixth consecutive appearance in a region title game with a 58-41 semifinal victory Tuesday at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

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Hazen’s win set up a championship matchup against top-seeded Beulah, its biggest rival, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It’ll be the first time since the teams joined Region 7 that they’ll play for a spot in the Class B state tournament.

“It’s a crazy feeling,” Cieslak said.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound forward was Hazen’s catalyst from the start. He scored eight points in the first quarter to give them an early 17-11 edge and piled on in the third when Trinity cut the Bison’s eight-point halftime lead to four.

Cieslak responded with six unanswered points to give Hazen a 40-30 lead with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the third. The Titans never got closer than eight the rest of the way.

“I’m pretty happy,” Cieslak said. “I owe it all to my teammates, mostly. They give me the ball and they cut around. It makes a lot of opportunities for me.”

Hazen’s well-rounded effort showed with a 50-33 edge on the boards and 23 second-chance points. The Bison (19-4) shot 43 percent from the field in the second half and limited Trinity to just 29 percent shooting from the field in the game.

“One of the things we talked about before we went out there was, number one, we said we have to play well defensively,” Hazen head coach Randy Johnson said. “That was first. The next thing we had to do was we really had to hit the boards and make sure they didn’t get any second-chance opportunities. They’ve done that in the past with teams that they’ve beat.”

Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner said Hazen’s performance on the boards was the key.

“They made the shots they needed to, they got a lot of offensive rebounds,” Grinsteinner said. “We had some great opportunities at looks. Our shots just weren’t falling. We had some inopportune turnovers and they had a lot to do with it. They elevated their game. Give them a lot of credit. They were ready to play.”

This is just the third time in the past 16 years that Trinity hasn’t reached the Region 7 championship game. The previous two were in 2000 and 2008.

The Titans (13-9), who will face New England at 6 p.m. Thursday in the third-place game, weren’t universally expected to get this far. They have just two seniors and only one of them was back from last year’s team that went to the state tournament.

“I think (this was) the first time in a long time that our youth kinda showed,” Grinsteinner said. “I think that happened. That’s not an excuse.

“They really got after us and took us out of a lot.”

Junior Cole Wilhelmi led Trinity with 14 points and senior Austin Deichert had 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Deichert, the team’s defensive sparkplug, left in the early fourth quarter with the Titans trailing 44-34 after suffering a cut on his chin.

The Bison never let down in the fourth, either. Their biggest lead was the final score.

Hazen, the No. 6-ranked team in the final Class B media poll, looks like it has its swagger back after losing to Beulah and New England to end the regular season. It beat Heart River 63-60 in the region quarterfinals Monday.

They’ll face a Beulah team riding a 15-game win streak.

“We haven’t been back to this championship game in a long time,” Cieslak said. “We’ve just got to come back on Thursday and prepare really hard tomorrow because Beulah is a good team.”

The towns are separated by just nine miles and the schools have a long-standing rivalry — perhaps one of the best in North Dakota.

“It’s going to be a battle, there’s no question,” Johnson said.

Hazen 17 30 44 58

Trinity 11 22 32 41

H: Austin Cieslak 27, Wyatt Carr 9, Josh Erhardt 7, Collin Maas 6, Kyle Lindquist 4, Dominick Opp 2, Seth Kreil 2, Nich Klein 1.

T: Cole Wilhelmi 14, Austin Deichert 10, Willy Jahner 7, Shawn Stoltz 4, Brett Mortenson 4, Lucas Jones 1, Jon Volk 1.

3-pointers: H 1 (Erhardt 1), T 3 (Wilhelmi 2, Jahner 1). Free throws: H 7-9, T 8-17. Total fouls: H 14, T 9. Rebounds: H 50 (Cieslak 16), T 33 (Stoltz 9). Assists: H 13 (Carr 5), T 8 (Mortenson 2). Steals: H 16, T 15 (Wilhelmi 3, Deichert 3). Blocks: H 3 (Cieslak 2), T 2 (two tied with one). Turnovers: H 16, T 16. Records: H 19-4, T 13-9.

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Dustin Monke
Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins 2014. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occassional Sunday column, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff.
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