Once again, the District 13 tournament is fair game and full of firepower
It will be difficult to win the District 13 tournament that begins today at Dickinson State's Scott Gymnasium.
Every coach says it -- and they have the numbers to back it up.
None of the six boys basketball teams in District 13 are ranked in the state's Class B media poll. But they have a combined 70-43 overall record. Together, they've won 61 percent of their games this season.
"That's how hard and impressive our district is," said Wayne Heckaman, head coach of No. 1 seed Mott-Regent.
Heckaman said the Wildfire have no expectations of waltzing to a championship despite being on a 10-game win streak, having the tournament's top seed and a pair of 1,000-point career scorers in its back pocket with senior guard Chad Mosbrucker (16.8 points per game) and senior center Nate Fries (14.6 points and 10 rebounds).
"It's anybody's tournament," Heckaman said. "That's how balanced it is. It's hard to prepare for teams that are so good and so well-coached."
No. 2 seed New England knows about that more than any other team. It won the District 13 championship last year as the No. 5 seed.
"The difference is probably that we have a little bit more experience and we've been a little more consistent," New England head coach Luke Powers said. "We're going to try and play our best ball at the end of the year, just like we did last year."
The Tigers (15-4), led by the senior trio of forward Kaine Hanson and guards Clarence Binstock and Nick Wolf, lost to Mott-Regent (15-4) by just two points on Jan. 3.
New England won its last seven games of the regular season and its four losses have come to teams with a combined record of 65-8.
Hanson leads the Tigers with 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Binstock adds 13.3 points, 7.7 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Wolf averages 12.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 steals.
"I've been talking all year about playing our best basketball in February and I think we're getting there, so it's a good opportunity for us to go and see if we've reached our potential," Powers said.
Heart River is another team on a hot streak.
The No. 3 seed Cougars (14-5) have won their last five games by an average of 26 points.
They know a thing or two about the highs and lows of tournament time too.
After coming into last season's District 13 tournament with the No. 6 seed, the Cougars finished second in both the district and region tournaments.
"I think it's whoever shows up and plays the best ball that night is going to do well," Heart River head coach Greg Pruitt said.
The lower-seeded teams in the tournament hope that means them.
No. 4 seed Bowman County starts four underclassmen -- juniors Colter Braaten, Brandon Fischer and Mike Palczewski and sophomore Tanner Fischer -- all of whom average more than 10 points per game.
"I think if we can play solid basketball, we have a chance to win the first one," Bowman County head coach Gary Ballard said. "We'd like to get another shot at Mott. To beat them, I know we'd have to play exceptionally well and shoot exceptionally well. But that puts you in a position to win."
Hettinger-Scranton comes into the tournament as the No. 5 seed and has been searching for consistency since the team's bus accident Jan. 13.
The Night Hawks (9-9) lost two starters for the season when their bus crashed off Highway 21 west of New England.
Junior center Stephen Kristy, who was averaging 14.7 points and more than 10 rebounds per game, tried to return to the floor but couldn't because of a tear in his lower quadriceps.
However, the Night Hawks have been boosted by the play of senior Ben Laufer.
The 6-foot-2 guard scores 17.8 points per game, but has averaged 21.2 in the last seven games of the season.
"Ben Laufer has really upped his game since the accident," Hettinger-Scranton head coach Adam Hill said. "We'd asked him to kind of play more of a distributive role this year. He had really done a nice job of getting everybody going and having a balanced attack."
That changed in the week following the accident.
"He's trying everything he can to get us through this and is doing a heck of a job," Hill said.
The No. 6 seed is Beach.
And not a soul is counting out the Buccaneers (9-10) because of the commanding presence they have in 6-foot-8 senior center Landon Lechler, a Class B all-state second team selections last season who leads the region with 20.7 points per game.
"You can't count them out just because they're the bottom seed," Heckaman said. "They're just as dangerous on any given night."