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Bulldogs won't settle for silver

Hounded by New England sophomore guard Shelly Kathrein, Bowman County junior guard Maury Burke looks for a teammate during a Region 7 Tournament game on Monday, Feb. 19 from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

In the 2018 Region 7 tournament, the Bowman County girls basketball team fell one game short of their goal. The Bulldogs lost in the finals to eventual state runner-up Killdeer 67-59.

This year, they won't settle for silver.

"I'm definitely confident that we can get back there," head coach Jaden Schoch said. "It's a long process. Basketball is not a sprint, it's a marathon, and our goal has been, we want to go to state. That is something we want to do, and I know there's probably five or six teams that have that goal as well and they're all very capable of doing that. We're trying to take it one game at a time."

Unlike many teams in the region, Bowman County didn't suffer a great loss to graduation. Both forward Meggie Fischer and guard Cassidy Walby were consistent scorers on the squad, but it's a offensive hole that Schoch is confident he can fill.

"We have a player, (junior forward) Abby Smyle, is kind of our 'replacement' player for Meggie," Schoch said. "No two players are alike, but she is about as close to Meggie's style as we can get to. She's come out really strong for us right away. Scoring and defensive-wise, she's done both. As for Cassidy, she was one of our better defensive players, and her offense came along too. ... We have some talented sophomores and juniors to fill those positions."

While Fischer scored 18 points in the season finale last year, so did then-junior forward Ellie Stafford. In the season opening 42-27 win over Flasher, Stafford netted 16 points, followed by Smyle who contributed 10.

Bowman downed Beulah 41-24 in the opening round of the Roughrider Tournament in Killdeer on Monday, Dec. 4, and in the semifinal downed Region 8 team Stanley 43-17.

"Our defense has been really good for us," Schoch said. "We held Flasher to 27 and we held Beulah to 24. Anytime you can keep teams in the 20s, we're pretty happy with that, but our scoring isn't there yet."

Schoch said it's no secret, his team plays a clear 1-2-2 zone and the girls have bought in and mastered it, which is why he thinks they've been so strong defensively so early on.

Stafford, a 2018 All-Region selection, has already found her offensive groove, scoring 16, 13 and 16 points in the games so far this season.

Schoch said he expects four or five more players who have started the season 'ice cold' to heat up and consistently find net down the road, such as senior guard Maury Burke, junior forward Ashlynn Dix and junior guard Jillian Svihovec.

"Maury Burke is our other senior, and she scores in different ways," Schoch said. "She's capable of hitting a (3-pointer) or a two a game. She scores a lot off of getting steals and fast-break layups and little pull up 15 foot jumpers."

Abigail Bartholomay is the third senior on the Bulldogs, a five-foot-six junior guard with years of varsity experience.

Albeit early, the Bulldogs look to be one of the stronger teams in the region. Schoch is taking his teams' success with a grain of salt though, keeping in mind that anything can happen in the region, especially come tournament time.

"We were picked pretty high, I guess, in the Hoopster rankings, and I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. I think the region's a lot closer than people might think," Schoch said. "I know we lost a lot of seniors in our region and we lost two very good ones too, but there are a lot of kids coming back from all teams that are gonna be talented. There's going to be a lot of good teams in our region. To come out (3-0) to start the season, we're obviously really happy with that."