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Region 7 filled with parity, up for grabs

There is plenty of parity entering the Region 7 Tournament.

No team has an undefeated record in the region.

The consensus from coaches around the region is whichever team puts together three games is going to punch its ticket to the North Dakota Class B state boys basketball tournament.

“It comes down to putting three games together,” Dickinson Trinity head coach Gregg Grinsteinner said. “There isn’t one team that’s head and shoulders above everybody else. Any of the 12 teams can put three games together right now. You have to worry about the team you’re facing and not anything else, because that’s all you can control.”

The four teams with first-round byes in the tournament are No. 1 Beulah (16-5), No. 2 Dickinson Trinity (12-8), No. 3 Hazen (17-4) and No. 4 New England (18-3).

The Miners claimed the top seed after completing the 11-game region schedule with a 10-1 record. Beulah’s lone loss came against Hazen. Trinity and New England have each defeated Hazen.

“There’s opportunity for everyone,” New England head coach Luke Powers said. “I wouldn’t call it wide open, but you can’t count anyone out either. It goes to show that anyone can beat anyone and you have to be ready to play.”

The other eight teams have one-game playoffs just to reach the eight-team tournament. The higher seeds host the opening-round games at 7 p.m. Friday.

The games are No. 9 Beach (7-14) at No. 8 Mott-Regent (9-12), No. 12 Bowman County (2-18) at No. 5 Killdeer (12-8), No. 10 Glen Ullin-Hebron (5-16) at No. 7 Hettinger-Scranton (10-11) and No. 11 Richardton-Taylor (5-16) at No. 6 Heart River (11-9).

Though the Raiders are the No. 11 seed, the team has played Heart River twice, losing each game by 10 points or less.

“Richardton is very well coached and they are very athletic,” Heart River head coach Greg Pruitt said. “The thing about Richardton-Taylor is we know each other pretty well. We have to make sure that we go in with a lot of respect and give them everything we got. No matter who we are playing, we’ve got to give them everything we got. We have to bring the best out of them and they have to bring the best out of us.”

In the quarterfinals on Monday afternoon, Beulah plays the winner of Mott-Regent and Beach, followed by New England playing the winner of Killdeer and Bowman County. In the night games, Trinity faces the winner of Hettinger-Scranton and Glen Ullin-Hebron, and Hazen plays either Heart River or Richardton-Taylor.

New England, which has a roster chock-full of juniors and sophomores, are maintaining their focus entering the tournament.

“We have smart kids and they know what other teams have and they know that any team is capable of winning,” Powers said. “As important as it is for me to keep the kids focused, they know we have to face a high level of competition. They are pretty zoned in.

“We show up in practice every day to improve and get better. At the same time, we go out and have fun with the game too. Having fun keeps the kids focused too.”

Though the nerves are always present in region games, Grinsteinner said there will be a little more excitement for not only the coaches and players, but for the fans.

“I think the super regional is going to be a lot of fun for the fans, because you don’t know what to expect or what is going to happen,” he said. “If you like competition and you are a casual basketball fan, there is going to be some very good games. There isn’t somebody that’s going to step on the floor and beat someone by 40 points.”