In its final three regular-season contests, the Dickinson High boys basketball team has allowed an average of 45.3 points on better than 50 percent shooting from the field during the second half.
Considering the team's defensive woes as of late, its performance during a West Region play-in game may have sparked a turnaround.
After giving up 39 second-half points to Bismarck St. Mary's on Feb. 19, the Midgets shut down the Saints three days later, holding their opponent to 26 points at a 32 percent clip in the final half of a 52-42 victory.
Dickinson head coach Dan Glasser said that effort was a product of his three junior starters - guards Kobe Krenz, Jaiden Wright and forward Tallon Klatt - getting time to sit during the opening minutes.
"Those three really need more time to rest in the first half instead of trying to get everything out of them right away," Glasser said. "It's been a problem that we've had for a stretch there and I just made up my mind that no matter what the score was, that we were going to get them out, give them some time to rest, recover, and be more ready for the second half.'
No. 8 Dickinson gained entry into the West Region Boys Basketball Tournament, earning a date on Thursday, Feb. 28, with a team that has been as dominant as they come: No. 1-ranked Jamestown.
Tied with Fargo Davies for the largest plus/minus in the state, the Blue Jays are undefeated and have played just one game where the margin of victory was single digits.
"I think they've beat us by an average of 39 points in our two games, but they are also beating teams by an average of 27 points the whole year, which is absolutely ... I've been in this area a long time and I've never seen anything like that," Glasser said.
On Jan. 4, Jamestown played its tightest game of the season, holding off Williston 82-77. One day later, the boys in blue and white hammered Dickinson 78-46. Earlier this month, the Blue Jays poured in their highest point total of the year during a 101-55 thumping over the Midgets on the road. In their rematch with the Coyotes, the Blue Jays matched their season-high in a 101-71 win on Feb. 15.
The top-ranked team in the state is led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Mason Walters and 6-foot-5 junior guard Boden Skunberg. Walters, an All-State second teamer one year ago, is third in the region in scoring at 22.4 points per game, and second in rebounding and blocks at 11 and 1.2, respectively. Skunberg, who reached the 1,000-point mark against Dickinson on Feb. 2, is the region's top scorer at 25.0 points per contest. He also pulls down 8.1 rebounds, ranking him fifth in the WDA.
"In 1989, Fargo South had a team that I think has been the best ever. They are very comparable to them," Glasser said of Jamestown. "They haven't had a close game all year. The closest game was to Williston; other than that, they have just completely dominated. It's amazing to watch."
Dickinson is guaranteed to face Minot or Bismarck Century on Friday. The Midgets are 0-4 versus those two teams, suffering a close loss and a lopsided one to each squad.
Glasser believes those four defeats fell on his coaching and not taking his team's stamina into account. If he can better manage his player's minutes, that gives the Midgets a better chance to win, but that's only if the team's depth takes shape.
Alleviating the workload of the team's best players, sophomore guard Jayden Hocker has been solid through eight games in February. While averaging 9.9 points per game this month, Hocker, who spent his freshman season at Rocky Mountain High School in Cowley, Wyo., values his presence on the defensive end most.
"I think my role on this team comes on defense," Hocker said. "I try to pride myself as much as I can on beating my matchups on defense. However, I also think that I have an offensive game that can be (useful) whenever that is needed.
"I think last year at my old school, I kind of developed. Towards the end of the season, I was getting a little more comfortable with the coaches, but I think this year was definitely a big leap."
Splitting their last six games, the Midgets enter the tournament with a 7-15 record. With a young team, Dickinson is not expected to get by the Blue Jays, making a path to state that much more difficult, but Glasser still aims for maximum effort out of his kids.
This weekend, a trip to state is on the line, but for the Midgets it's as much as planting a seed for tournament trips in the future.
"It's a great experience for this young team. With Cody (Maier) being the only senior, we are going to get as much out of this tournament as possible, get as much experience as possible," Glasser said. "I want them to go enjoy it and relax. No one is expecting us to do anything, so we are just to going in there, work our butts off, have a lot of fun and see what outcome happens."