Beach looks for 5th straight district titleFor the last four years, the Beach girls basketball team has controlled District 13.
By: Royal McGregor, The Dickinson Press
For the last four years, the Beach girls basketball team has controlled District 13.
Though the past four seasons have culminated in four straight district titles and three consecutive Class B state tournament appearances, Beach head coach Bob Waldal knows this season’s road to state is going to be a battle.
“Everybody is pretty even,” Waldal said. “There’s probably more balance this year than there has been for a long time.”
The tournament begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday when No. 4 seed Heart River takes on No. 5 seed Hettinger-Scranton at Bowman’s Solberg Gymnasium. No. 3 seed Mott-Regent and No. 6 seed Bowman County follow at 7 p.m.
Beach posted a 5-0 record in district play, is 14-5 overall and has the No. 1 seed with a first-round bye. The Buccaneers play the winner between Heart River and Hettinger-Scranton at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinals.
Though Waldal isn’t a fan of having a first-round bye, it will give the Buccaneers a chance to watch their competitors play one last time before stepping onto the court.
“It’s hard for kids to sit one game and I think there’s a real advantage for team’s that have played one game on the floor during tournament time,” Waldal said. “You have to go in really strong mentally. Those are things that we talk about right now — how mentally strong we have to be.”
One team looking to have a successful district tournament after a 12-7 season is No. 2 seed New England. The Tigers also received a first-round bye, which is a first in the eight-year career of head coach Jason Jung.
“I think it’s a perfect year to have a bye, because this district is so competitive,” Jung said. “It doesn’t matter who you play in the first round. It’s going to be a tough battle.”
New England will play the winner of the Mott-Regent and Bowman County. The Tigers lost to the Wildfire 51-42 on Jan. 10, which was the same game freshman point guard Jenna Ehlis suffered a season-ending leg injury. New England, however, responded with a 47-42 win over Bowman County on Jan. 24.
Beach leads Region 7 in scoring with 62.5 points per game and defense, allowing 39.6 points per game. Juniors Hailee Farstveet, Bailey Waldal and Cyndi Stedman lead the Buccaneers averaging a combined 45.6 points per game. Stedman leads Region 7 in scoring with 16.6 points per game.
“They’ve played together since the third or fourth grade,” Bob Waldal said. “They’re just good teammates too. They don’t separate themselves either. They are all in it together.”
New England has the second-best defense in the region, allowing 40.1 points per game, while the team scores 49.3.
Gabbi Hanson, a junior guard who suffered a concussion late in the season and averages a team-high 13.8 points per game, has been cleared to play in the District 13 tournament. Hanson is accompanied by junior Hannah Nordby, who averages 11.9 points.
“We’re going in with a lot of confidence,” Jung said. “What we’ve seen throughout the year is so many kids step up for us, whether we’ve had injuries or sickness. All the girls not only have confidence in themselves, but each other.”
Heart River started the season losing 10 of its first 11 games, but finished 4-3 with back-to-back wins over Bowman County and Center-Stanton. Mary Hlebechuk leads the Cougars with 14 points per game. Sophomore Casey Joppa averages 11.3 for the Night Hawks.
Mott-Regent grabbed the No. 3 seed with help from seniors Marah Friez and Naomi Meier and junior Abby Honeyman. Friez has been dealing with a heel pain for the latter part of the season. She and Meier each average more than 12 points while Honeyman supplies 9.25. The Wildfire average 46.2 points per game, while their defense gives up 55.75.
“At the beginning of the season, we relied on our quickness,” Mott-Regent head coach Brad Greff said. “Then team’s figured out to stop the Wildfire, you need to stop Marah. Our team has grown into more of a well-balanced team. The other girls realized that they have to step up and it can’t all be on Marah’s shoulders. Overall, I think we are a better basketball team.”
Though Bowman County is the No. 6 seed, Greff said it might be one of the best No. 6 seeds of any district tournament in the state. The Bulldogs score more than 51 points per game while allowing 45. Bowman County has relied a balanced attack with five players scoring seven points to nine points. Haley Sabe leads the Bulldogs with 8.6 points per game with Kaylee Heinrich is a close second at 8.2.
“They just seemed to hit a bad streak when it came to district games,” Greff said. “They’ve got a lot of talent. Throw out the No. 6 seed, they are just a good team.”