Raiders ready for difficult week ahead
Some teams would be underwhelmed by an 8-6 record as the postseason approaches.
Not the Richardton-Taylor boys basketball team.
After compiling a 6-54 combined record the past three seasons -- including back-to-back three-win seasons -- the Raiders are pleased with their improvement and content to be in the conversation when it comes to Region 7 Tournament contention.
"These kids have been playing varsity basketball since they were freshmen," said Richardton-Taylor head coach Rob Bartz, who has seven seniors. "They're a lot calmer on the floor and handling pressure a lot better."
That pressure is about to get cranked up.
Over the next eight days, the Raiders face three of the top teams in Region 7.
They start by hosting No. 1-ranked Beulah at 7 p.m. today at the Richardton-Taylor High School gymnasium. The Raiders play Heart River in South Heart at 7 p.m. Saturday and then visit No. 3-ranked Dickinson Trinity at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Beulah and Trinity are District 14 games for the Raiders, who are 1-2 in league play after a 74-73 overtime loss against Killdeer on Jan. 8 and a 25-point defeat at the hands of Hazen on Jan. 15.
"These next three games, I told the kids, we need to use these and learn from them and work on what we need to do," said Bartz, in his fourth season. "Don't worry about the wins and losses. In the long run, those are only three games we need to win in the future and those are the three district (tournament) games."
Richardton-Taylor definitely has the firepower to compete with the best teams in the region.
Lane Voltz, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, averages 18.8 points, six rebounds and four assists per game -- and there's a good amount of depth behind him.
Senior forward Chad Gullickson averages 10.1 points and eight rebounds per game -- he has six double-doubles this season -- while senior center Ryder Bohlman averages 10.8 points per game. Seniors Kasey Dressler, Paul Koppinger and Cade Kuntz all average between 5 and 8 points per game.
"We still have too many turnovers, but those aren't a lack of ability," Bartz said. "It's poor decisions that have been made at times. It's just an issue of experience and the game is slowing down for them finally."
After a slow start, Trinity girls on 5-game win streak
A slow start to the season hasn't deterred the Dickinson Trinity girls basketball team.
After dropping three consecutive game to state-ranked teams over a span of 14 days early in the season, the Titans have bounced back.
Following an eight-day layoff, the Titans (8-4, 2-0 District 14) put their win streak on the line against Beulah in an important district game at 6 p.m. MST Friday at the Beulah High School gymnasium. A win would put Trinity on track to earning a first-round bye in the district tournament.
"I think no matter who you're facing, you're going to get everyone's best performance that night just because everybody understands how important those district games are," Trinity head coach Alysia Barman said.
Barman said her young team, which has no seniors and relies heavily on a group of freshmen, is buying into the timeless adage that practice makes perfect.
"We had talked with the girls that our tough schedule early, how it was going to prepare us for our district tournament schedule. That's really starting to pay off," Barman said. "We, for a long period of time -- especially over Christmas break -- we were very limited on the number of things we could get in offensively and defensively. We've been able to battle each other a little more in practice."
Trinity lost to No. 1-ranked Minot Ryan 69-24 on Dec. 21, fell to No. 3-ranked New Town 71-49 on Dec. 28 and were outran by Region 7-leading Beach 61-34 on Jan. 3. All of those games were on the Titans' home court at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
Since then, they've won six of their last seven games and have won their last five games by an average of 21 points.
The maturation of the team's freshmen, as well as the call to leadership that has been answered by a group of steadfast juniors, has been key to the team's revitalization.
With six different leading scorers in 12 games, it's easy to see the Titans are a team that rely on offensive balance.
Junior point guard Rachel Jahner leads the team with 9.7 points per game. Freshman forward Alana Sickler (9.4 ppg), junior guard Katelyn Grinsteinner (9 ppg), freshman forward Kennedy Keator (7.2 ppg) and junior forward Jillian Stockert (5.6 ppg) have had shining moments. So have juniors Gretchen Weir and Allison Steffan and freshman Madison Jahner and Brianna Soehren.
"As a group, they've stepped up," Barman said. "They've responded well.