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Kleinsasser's pep talk, Barton's big game lifts Carrington

Carrington guard Jackson Unruh hits a shot in his team's Class B boys basketball state tournament quarterfinal victory over Mandaree 62-54 Thursday at the Minot State Dome. Photo by Kevin Cederstrom

MINOT -- Former Carrington Cardinal Jim Kleinsasser's pep talk on Wednesday couldn't have worked out any better for the Cardinals in the opening round of the state Class B boys basketball tournament on Thursday at the Minot State University Dome.

Competing in the school's first state tournament since Kleinsasser and the Cardinals rolled to a state championship in 1995 over Grenora, Carrington inched closer to a second state title with a 62-54 win over Mandaree.

Kleinsasser, a current tight end for the Minnesota Vikings, told the team via Skype to "live in the moment, have fun with it and go kick some butt."

Check the first of three missions complete.

Carrington's 6-foot-6 senior Devin Barton, a University of North Dakota football recruit -- just like Kleinsasser, owned the third quarter against the Warriors.

Barton scored 10 of his team-high 26 points in the third and Carrington moved on to face Cavalier in state semifinals at 7:15 tonight.

Barton also pulled down 15 rebounds in the game.

"We knew we were bigger and had the size advantage," Barton said. "I got the ball down low and did whatever I could to get it in."

Mandaree dug a quick hole in the first quarter, connecting on just 1 of 6 attempts from 3-point range. Carrington stormed out to a 12-4 lead fueled by five points from Barton and a trey from Kaleb Klein.

Carrington led 16-12 at the end of the first.

"We feel our post players are as good as anyone's, and we've got great passers," Carrington coach Nate Monson said. "The whole game we rebounded well, except for the series at the end, but we had it in control by 15 or more throughout most of the game."

Both teams struggled to hit the long shot in the first half, with Mandaree converting 3 of 10 3-point attempts and Carrington converting just 1 of 10.

But rebounding was the key cog keeping the Cardinals out front 31-28 at the break, especially on the offensive glass. Carrington racked up four offensive boards in a row at one point, eventually ending in two points for Barton to put the Cards out front 26-25 with 3:25 remaining before the third.

Carrington outrebounded the Warriors 21-14 in the first half, and ended the game with a 39-31 edge in boards.

Another impressive stat for the Cardinals was in the assists department. Carrington's Chase Monson and Jackson Unruh both ended the game with 6 assists, as the Cards dished out a total of 16.

"We average 19 assists a game," coach Monson said. "I believe we have four guys with over 60 assists this season. It's a big part of our game."

Keeping Mandaree in the contest was the team's Mr. Everything: 6-1 senior forward Devin Yellow Wolf.

Yellow Wolf entered the tournament leading the Warriors in four average categories with 18 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals per game. He finished with 27 points and six rebounds.

"We haven't seen a team that big all season," Mandaree coach Kevin Finley said. "They were physical and got themselves in position so well."

Barton rifled off six points to start the second half for Carrington, and the Cardinals led 43-38 to start the fourth.

"(Barton) was the whole difference," Finley said. "We just couldn't contain him."

Shots just wouldn't fall for the Warriors down the stretch, and a big trey by Klein with 3:53 to play put Carrington at front by 10 points (48-38) which was too much for the Warriors to overcome.

Mandaree ended the game converting just 21 of 56 shots from the floor, to Carrington's 27 of 58. Klein and Easton Page also hit double figures for the Cardinals, scoring 13 and 12 points, respectively.

"It feels great being in the night bracket for the rest of the tournament," said Barton. "You've gotta win the first one, that's the big one."

Savaloja is a reporter for The Jamestown Sun, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.