'It doesn't get old': Beulah outlasts Dickinson Trinity in another classic Region 7 thriller
During the 2018 Region 7 Tournament title game, Beulah and Dickinson Trinity needed two overtimes to decided who was going to state.
The Miners emerged on top 74-71 in last season's epic thriller, which was the third straight year the familiar foes matched up for the regional championship and the second straight year that it was decided on the game's final shot.
As the both Titans and Miners battled through this year's Region 7 Tournament, two questions begged to be asked: Can these two familiar foes add another classic to their incredible rivalry and will this latest installment go into overtime like last year?
On Thursday, March 7, from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center, the answers to those questions were yes and no.
While the 2019 Region 7 title game just barely missed out on overtime, it didn't need the extra frame to deliver the same amount of drama that basketball fans have come to expect when these two square off.
Beulah held a nine-point advantage before the Titans nearly completed an improbable comeback. Causing three turnovers in the game's final two minutes, Dickinson Trinity cut its deficit to two and had a pair of chances to tie it or take the lead, but as the last-second 3-pointer bounced off the front rim, the Miners again found themselves with a trophy in their possession, picking up a breathtaking 48-46 victory.
"It doesn't get old. It gets more stressful and more emotional with more anxiety," Beulah head coach Jeremy Brandt said with a smile. "Coach (Gregg) Grinsteinner and I talked before the game, no matter what happens tonight, both of us are just going to be glad when Friday comes just cause you almost need to exhale and feel like you are getting burnt out a little bit. This week is such an emotional, anxiety-filled week, so yeah, it's hard on a guy."
With a pair of free throws from Miners senior guard Sean Gierke and an offensive foul called on the Titans on the ensuing possession, Beulah had the ball and a 46-37 advantage with under two minutes to go before the tide started in Trinity's favor.
Miners senior guard Chad Morsette was whistled for a charging foul. After Titans senior forward Aric Knopik drilled a pair from the charity stripe, Trinity stole the inbound pass, as junior guard Bryant Merry cut the gap to 46-41 with a basket inside.
With the nerves building on its side, Beulah broke Dickinson Trinity's trapping pressure, resulting in a layup from junior forward Jonah Larson, who up-faked, calmly waited for sophomore guard Cole Fitterer to race by before banking the ball off the glass.
The Titans came coming though, as Fitterer made a layup with 39.7 seconds left. Again, Dickinson Trinity forced a turnover on the inbound pass, leading to a Merry triple from the right corner.
"You got to get past that lead. It would've been nice to maintain that lead, but you got to get past that and make some plays to get that clock going to get it over with," Brandt said. "I think maybe we got too emotional instead of staying a little more even-keeled and making sure we took care of business at the end."
Beulah senior guard Shaye Yeager missed a pair of free throws, as Trinity had a chance to tie the contest with 13.1 seconds left. Coming out the Titans final timeout, Knopik spun and darted to the rim to receive an inbound pass, but his shot from inside the paint was too strong. Yeager, who led all players with 15 points, again was sent to the line after securing the rebound, but just like his previous trip, his foul shots were off the mark.
"Obviously, there's a lot of pressure. I was nervous, I've never really been in that kind of situation. It got to me obviously," a soon-to-be relieved Yeager said.
With 10 seconds remaining and out of timeouts, Trinity had one last chance. Knopik rebounded Yeager's second missed free throw and passed the ball to Fitterer, who raced up the floor. Dribbling toward the left win, Fitterer shoveled the ball to junior guard Matt Stafford. With the time ticking, Stafford, who was a couple of feet behind the arc, used a rhythm dribble to lead into his shot from three-point territory, but a great contest from Gierke limited the strength behind the junior's release, as his shot bounced off the front rim.
"I got it and I was a little further back," Stafford said. "I rose up, it looked good and was straight-on, but it was a flat shot. It nailed the front of the rim and came back. It's disappointing, but that's the way it goes."
Through the first half of action, the teams traded the lead seven times as Trinity entered halftime with 23-21 advantage, but for the Beulah, the larger concern was Morsette, who appeared to twist his right leg just before the break.
During warmups before the start of the third quarter, Morsette made his final two shots, but slowly limped to the bench and smack the seat cushion as a sign of frustration. The pain was intense, but the senior soldiered on.
"It was bad. I heard a pop, and I thought I was done for, but I went into the locker room and I tied my shoes tight," Morsette said. "I just had the Kobe/Mamba mentality, to come out and overcome it."
Morsette opened the second half with back-to-back to baskets. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and three steals. After sitting last season out with injury, the senior missed out on Beulah's last trip to state. Now he gets his chance on the big stage.
"It feels great, it feels amazing right now," Morsette said. "I put all of my heart and soul into this game, and the guys and I got it done tonight."
Beulah entered the fourth period with a 35-33 lead before its lead ballooned up to nine thanks to its defense. In the first six minutes of the frame, Trinity committed three turnovers and had four points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field.
"They started switching a lot of the screen action we had. We were trying to slip it, but the kids were having a hard time hearing what we wanted them to do cause the crowd was so into it," Grinsteinner said.
Knopik and Stafford paced the Titans with 11 points each. Those two, along with Morsette, were selected to the All-Region 7 team.
It was the seventh time this decade that Beulah and Dickinson Trinity met in a regional championship game. Closing out the decade with a win, Beulah owns a 4-3 advantage during that stretch. Despite the result not going his way and the tension possibly taking years off his life, Grinsteinner said he had a blast on the sidelines.
"It was fun. It was a lot of work, I enjoyed it," Grinsteinner said. "I think if asked Jeremy, he'd tell you the same thing. We're to the point where you work so hard to get here and you are working on adrenaline. I'm so proud of the kids of both teams. Both teams played so hard, both teams made runs. ... Both teams left it on the floor, that's all that you ask out of the kids."
Region 7 Tournament Championship Game
No. 2 Beulah 48, No. 1 Dickinson Trinity 46
B 11 10 14 13
DT 12 11 10 13
B: Shaye Yeager 15, Chad Morsette Jr. 12, Jonah Larson 9, Sean Gierke 7, Trey Brandt 4, Joe Hager 1.
DT: Aric Knopik 11, Matthew Stafford 11, Bryant Merry 7, Cole Fitterer 6, Jake Daniel 5, Seth Herner 2, Isaac Fridrich 2, Tanner Soehren 2.
3-pointers: B 3 (Morsette Jr. 2), DT 4 (Stafford 2). Free throws: B 7-12, DT 10-16. Total fouls: B 14, DT 14. Rebounds: B 31 (Yeager 7), DT 29 (Knopik 7). Assists: B 8 (Larson 2, Morsette Jr. 2, Gierke 2), DT 6 (Fitterer 3). Steals: B 5 (Morsette 3), DT 5 (Fitterer 2). Blocks: B 3 (Larson 2), DT 3 (Knopik 2). Turnovers: B 13, DT 13. Records: B 19-4, DT 18-6.