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Watford City girls hoping for strong finish

Watford City senior Mackenzie Sparby secures a rebound against Richardton-Taylor on Dec. 8, 2015, at the Girls Roughrider Tournament at Killdeer High School. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)

WATFORD CITY — The Watford City girls basketball team is off to a 3-0 start already this season after dispatching Hettinger-Scranton, Bowman County and Heart River in last week's Girls Roughrider Tournament in Killdeer.

The Wolves have made it a habit of doing well in that tournament, winning it three straight times and three times in a row from 2010-12. In 2013, Watford City was runner-up.

Last season, the Wolves used that strong start to spark them to what would become a 24-3 overall record and a second-place finish in the Class B Girls Basketball State Tournament in Grand Forks.

That team was a little more seasoned, head coach John Zenz said, but this year's group still brings a competitive nature.

"I think we have potential. It's a young group, overall — a lot of kids getting their first varsity taste," Zenz said. "We played really solid defense, especially those last two games (of the Roughrider). There's still a lot to work in on terms of taking a good team and making it a very good team, but we have kids that want to get out and play."

For the first three games, at least, 6-foot senior Mackenzie Sparby led the way by averaging 19 points in the Roughrider Tournament. As the team's only senior, and its main option in the post, Sparby figures to see a lot of action.

"Her being back and having a lot of experience and having good size, she should have some matchups available where she should have opportunities to score," Zenz said. "A key along with that is, are we going to get some outside scoring to go along with that?"

Would-be senior ReiAnn Lindley chose not to play basketball this season, leaving younger guards to fill that void. In that group, Zenz said he likes juniors Avery Sundeen and Lida Lehto, sophomore Lindsey Peterson and eighth-grader Emma Mogen.

"They all have potential, but our shooting percentage for the tournament was in the mid-30s," Zenz said, "so we do need to get better in that area of our game."

Zenz added that the outside shooting will take some of the focus off Sparby in the post; he expects teams to collapse on her down low until the Wolves can prove to be a threat from the outside.

"Lindsey's got good size. She did dress for us on the varsity last year and got some playing time. She's got a nice perimeter shot, and she's got a nose for the ball. A lot of times, she'd come into varsity games in the last two or three minutes and she always seemed to score," Zenz said. "Emma's just an eighth-grader but she's really stepping up. At this point, she's been our best defensive player, and we've put her on some of the better players we've ran across so far."

Zenz said that New Town already looks like a favorite in Region 8's District 15, and he expects Parshall to be in the mix there also. He's hoping his Wolves team can put together enough wins to maybe make a run at its 15th appearance in the state tournament.

"It's a pretty young group, so it's hard to hold that out there. If we keep improving and keep working hard, we have a chance to be a pretty good team by the time the district and region tournaments come around," Zenz said. "It'll be dependant on how the young girls grow up over the course of the season."

Watford City Wolves

Head coach: John Zenz (sixth season)

2015-16 result: 24-3 overall, lost in Class B state championship game to Shiloh Christian

Returners: Mackenzie Sparby, Sr., Avery Sundeen, Jr., Lida Lehto, Jr., Lindsey Peterson, Soph., Emma Mogen, 8th.

Newcomers: Kaitlyn Nokes, Jr., Sydney Sanford, Soph., Sydney Faller, Soph., Kaylin Monsen, Soph., Gracie Dahl, Soph., Ashley Holen, 8th.

Parker Cotton

Cotton is the sports editor at The Press, where he covers the area's high schools. He came to The Press as the Multimedia Editor in May 2015 after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado with his master's degree in Sociological Practice. He holds undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Sociology from UNC, as well. 

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