This game brought to you by the two-class systemFARGO – This year’s boys basketball state championship game was what Class B is all about.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
FARGO – This year’s boys basketball state championship game was what Class B is all about.
Remember, Saturday night’s game between big-school Grafton and smaller Turtle Lake-Mercer would not have been possible without the current two-class system.
With the issue of splitting North Dakota’s basketball and volleyball classes into three parts on its deathbed but still not six feet under, Turtle Lake-Mercer and Grafton proved – just like Parshall and Dickinson Trinity did last March – that Class B basketball games are always competitive, no matter what the enrollment of the schools involved happens to be.
While big-school Grafton (enrollment 275) prevailed 53-42 over Turtle Lake-Mercer (enrollment 67), the game was still exciting and had several fans outside the Grafton section rooting for the little guys.
An estimated 8,000 fans showed up to watch the latest David vs. Goliath title game. With Grafton, the second-biggest Class B school in the state, playing a team well entrenched in the bottom half of Class B, the matchup was intriguing.
And for more than two-thirds of the game, the battle was fierce. Finally, early in the fourth quarter, Grafton used a small run to gain an upper hand and held on long enough to win its first state championship since 1937.
In the eyes of the uniformed, Turtle Lake-Mercer didn’t appear to stand a chance.
Much like their school and town sizes, the Trojans were smaller than the Spoilers. Turtle Lake-Mercer has no player taller than 6-foot-2.
Grafton, meanwhile, sported the state tournament’s biggest and baddest big man in senior center Anthony Kliniske, who had game highs of 17 points and seven rebounds to help his team to a victory.
Turtle Lake-Mercer’s main man was junior guard Cameron Malzer, who is just 6-feet tall.
Malzer got his team going early but struggled when Kliniske got in his face later in the game. Malzer, who was named the state tournament’s most valuable player, was held to 13 points. He had scored 26 and 25 points in his two previous tournament games.
The perfect scenario would have seen David use his slingshot – in this case, Malzer’s jumper – to topple Goliath.
Instead, Goliath put the hammer down and sent David packing.
Yet, the outcome didn’t matter. The game proved that two teams on the opposite end of the Class B enrollment spectrum can still be competitive, especially on the highest stage their sport offers.
The likelihood of a three-class system putting 8,000 fans in the seats to watch two small schools, or two medium-sized schools go after a title doesn’t appear possible. And it certainly doesn’t seem like it would hold the excitement Grafton and Turtle Lake-Mercer proved was possible Saturday night.
Monke is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at www.areavoices.com/monke