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Dickinson Trinity Titans girls basketball to play Watford City in physical rematch in Class B state tournament opening round

GRAND FORKS -- While today might mark the opening round of the Class B state girls basketball tournament, it will be the second meeting this year between Dickinson Trinity and Watford City.

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Dickinson Trinity senior guard Madi Jahner, right, looks to pass while being defended by Watford City junior forward ReiAnn Lindley in the Titans’ 43-29 victory on Dec. 18 at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

GRAND FORKS - While today might mark the opening round of the Class B state girls basketball tournament, it will be the second meeting this year between Dickinson Trinity and Watford City.

The Titans (20-4) and Wolves (22-2) faced off Dec. 18 at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center with Trinity emerging as the victors 43-29. They’ll battle on the court again at noon today at the Alerus Center with Watford City as the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

After making the tournament in 2014, the Wolves missed out last season. The Titans are making their second consecutive appearance and fifth overall.

Having that early meeting can be advantageous for both teams today, as there’s little likelihood of surprises.

“The good thing about facing Trinity - and I’m sure they think this too - is that we know each other,” Watford City head coach John Zenz said. “We didn’t have to scramble to find tape.”

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Region 8 champion Watford City’s only other loss this season is to Class A Turtle Mountain - 70-38 in January. Still, there is plenty for the Wolves to remember about the loss to Trinity.

“I remember us being ahead 17-12 after the first quarter, and we scored a whopping 12 points the rest of the way,” Zenz said. “We have to stay out of foul trouble this time. Katie (Mogen) and Ricki (Lindley) got into foul trouble, and those are two big pieces to miss.”

Mogen, a senior forward, and Lindley, a senior guard, combined for 19 points in the December meeting before both fouling out.

Trinity head coach Carter Fong said the Titans cannot bank on getting Mogen and Lindley into foul trouble once again, so his team must be sound in every aspect of the game. At the top of that list is not getting pressured into the Wolves’ half-court traps.

“We have to avoid the catastrophic turnovers - ones that lead to points and a layup at their end,” Fong said. “Ricki Lindley is incredibly athletic, and they like to stick her at the top of their traps. We have to take care of the basketball.”

Those traps have helped Watford City become the highest-scoring Class B girls team in the state this season at 66 points per game. The Wolves also boast the best margin of victory, winning by an average of 29 points.

The Wolves’ depth also plays a big role in that success. Watford City will roll eight or nine players deep, making for fresh legs and a lot of mismatches for opponents.

Against Trinity, that depth will come the most in handy in the post. Beyond Mogen, the Wolves will utilize junior Mackenzie Sparby, and seniors Kaytlyn Grimes and Krystal Wold.

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“We have pretty good depth in the post. We have girls we can rotate in,” Zenz said. “We should have the size and abilities to play with them. Mackenzie Sparby and Katie Mogen are both averaging double-digits, and that’ll be an important factor.”

To combat the Wolves’ size, Trinity will rely on seniors Brianna Soehren and Alanna Sickler who both average a near double-double.

Sparby had seven points and 13 rebounds in the teams’ first meeting, while Soehren scored 10 points and Sickler scored 13 points with 15 rebounds. Watford City won the rebounding battle 40-32.

“Sparby and Soehren, Mogen and Sickler, those are two great matchups there,” Fong said. “Mogen’s athletic; she’s a lefty. Sparby is very physical. Those two matchups, they’re not carbon copies of each other, but they’re close. Whoever wins those matchups will go a long way toward deciding who wins this game.”

Much of Trinity’s preparation centers on neutralizing Watford City’s post players.

“We know Brianna and I are going to have to be pretty physical with them down low,” Sickler said, “and on offense, we know our guards might have to take more outside shots. We probably have to work harder in transition to get some easy buckets.”

Sickler added that the recent play of senior guard Madi Jahner will help dictate much of the game.

“Madi has found both sides of the floor. Before, she was more of a defensive player, and with Kennedy (Keator) out, she’s had to set up as a shooting guard, and she’s done really well with that,” Sickler said. “Her shooting now is helping us a lot. She’s becoming more of a leader for all of us. Even me and Brianna are looking up to her.”

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Fong said being mindful of the dangers all the Wolves’ players present will help the Titans as they hope beat Watford City a second time.

“It’s going to be a different ball game,” Fong said. “I think both teams would say their role players - their supporting cast - have come a long way since that first meeting. We need to be familiar not just with their big three (Lindley, Mogen and Sparby), but with all the names in their starting lineup on through their bench to know where we match-up and where we might find our advantage.”

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