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Cowboys senior heavy squad gives way to junior class

Killdeer's Trae Murray (4) looks to the basket while under pressure from Thompson's Taylor Zak Friday during a semi-final game of the State B tournament in Minot. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
Killdeer's Shawnee Hansen applies pressure Thompson's Kaia Sorby (2) Friday during a semi-final game of the State B tournament in Minot. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 2

Falling just nine points short of completing a dream season, the Killdeer girls basketball team were all understandably heartbroken.

The Cowboys battled down to the wire, but were ultimately toppled by Grant County 53-44 in the Class B Girls Basketball State Final on Saturday, Mar. 3 from the Minot State Dome.

When the final buzzer sounded, blue and white confetti exploded onto the floor as the Coyotes celebrated a state championship on one side of the hardwood, while Killdeer players slowly walked to the bench, many with their heads in their hands as tears flowed from their eyes.

As the commotion settled, awards were given out honoring the standouts of Class B. Cowboys senior guard Sydney Anderson and forward Trae Murray were both recognized for their play during the postseason and were selected to the all-tournament team.

After receiving the state runner-up trophy, the team stayed on the court to take photos for another 10-15 minutes before trickling one-by-one into a very emotional locker room. When they walked back out preparing to exit the arena, the players were met by hugs and cheers from family and a Killdeer faithful who have filled up gymnasiums all year long and made with the long trip to Minot in support.

It was a sign of appreciation toward the authors of the most successful Cowboys girls basketball season to date.

"I'm just still so proud. We made it to the state championship," Killdeer head coach Ashlee Viveros said. "We were competitive with the number one team in the state now and what I'm more proud of than anything else is the character, the heart and the love that those 11 girls shared."

The senior-laden roster was guided by upperclassman. Anderson, the team's leading rebounder, was named the Region 7 senior athlete of the year. Murray, the team's leading scorer, performed above her regular season scoring average during the postseason. The 6-foot forward averaged 15.5 points per game during six regional and state tournament games, up from her 14.8 regular season average.

Next year, Killdeer will have to replace four senior starters, including sharp-shooting forward Bridgette Reiss and versatile guard Chenneth Morlock. Forwards Hannah Kling, Corrie Dobitz and guard Rachel Kisse round out a group whose contributions far exceed their play on the court.

"I couldn't ask for a better group of seven seniors," Viveros said. "The seven seniors worked their butt off, year after year, summer after summer, in the weight room, in the gym and they conducted themselves in a way that would make their families proud and certainly in a way that makes me proud. They're great students, better people and active in their community. Us coaches are going to miss them so much for who there are."

The Cowboys finished 22-5. The campaign featured a 12-game winning streak and an impressive 10-4 record in games decided by 10 points or less.

A season with many milestones and closely-contested bouts will serve as quality experience for the four juniors returning.

Shawnee Hansen, the lone non-senior starter, along fellow guards Karly Bang, Melayna Four Bear and Steena Larsen all produced significant moments during the Killdeer's long journey to the state championship game and will be counted on as the team is expected to fill out next year's roster with junior varsity call ups.

"This is going to give them the experience that they can share with the younger girls that we are going to be bringing up in the near feature," Viveros said. "I think some of juniors are some of our leaders anyways, natural leaders. I think it going to give them the experience on how rise to the occasion in these sorts of situations. It's invaluable and it's going to be huge for them next year."

Patrick Bernadeau

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. He can be reached at his office number (701) 456-1211 or email him at pbernadeau@thedickinsonpress.com. Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers (TCPalm.com) in Stuart, FL as well as carrying bylines from the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today and Naples Daily News. Prior to his move to Dickinson, he resided in Port St. Lucie, FL, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Florida Atlantic University. Patrick was born and raised in Brockton, Mass and is an avid Boston sports fan. Born to Haitian parents, Patrick's favorite meal is Griot with Banana Peze, Pikliz (Fried pork with smashed plaintains and a spicy vegetable relish) and a tall glass of Cherry Coke.

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