Hazen looking for perfection to defeat No. 8-ranked Beach
Perfection. That's what Hazen girls basketball coach John Ward said his team needs tonight in the Region 7 tournament championship game. It's what the Bison must have, Ward says, if they hope to beat No. 8-ranked Beach. "If we want to go anyplace...
That's what Hazen girls basketball coach John Ward said his team needs tonight in the Region 7 tournament championship game.
It's what the Bison must have, Ward says, if they hope to beat No. 8-ranked Beach.
"If we want to go anyplace else beyond this, we've got to play the best teams," Ward said after the Bison beat Bowman County on Tuesday in the semifinals of the region tournament. "And Beach is the best team. We look forward to that challenge -- and they are good. We've got to play well."
The Buccaneers are 21-2 this season and come into the game on an 11-game win streak. Their closest game during that stretch was a 59-44 win over Dickinson Trinity on Monday in the region quarterfinals, which they led by as much as 27 in the fourth quarter before turning to the reserves.
Beach appears to be hitting their stride just in time for the title game that begins at 7:30 p.m. today at Knights of Columbus Activities Center. That's something Beach head coach Bob Waldal was hoping for coming into the season after returning no starters.
Four Beach players average double figures in scoring, led by District 14 senior athlete of the year Kelcee Dykins at 18.2 points per game.
Like Dykins, sophomore starters Hailee Farstveet (13.1 points), Bailey Waldal (12.3) and Cydni Stedman (11.1) played backup roles last season. Channa Clarin, a freshman starting center in her second season playing organized basketball, wasn't even on the varsity last season.
"A lot of this is new water that they're in," Bob Waldal said. "This championship game is new for them, too. They keep growing and I like what they see. They have gotten better, from day one."
In the past three seasons, Beach has lost just three times in 76 games. Their only loss last season came in the state tournament opener against Kenmare. The Buccaneers went on to place fifth. The year before, they went unbeaten at 26-0 and won the state championship.
They lost to Linton-HMB 60-52 on Dec. 10, just their second game this season, and lost to defending state champions and No. 1-ranked Carrington 66-59 on Jan. 21 in Bismarck.
Hazen is about as big as an underdog gets.
Despite winning the District 14 championship, the Bison are 13-11 this season and lost to Beach 79-34 on Dec. 17.
Ward said his team has grown much since that meeting too.
Senior Paige Burling is averaging 13.5 points per game while seven other players chip in anywhere from three to six points per game.
"There's some talent there," Ward said. "But the big thing is they're not selfish. They want to win. That's the bottom line and they've really put that forward and I think they're showing it."
While Waldal knows his team is favored to return to the state tournament for the third consecutive year, he said the team hasn't booked their hotel rooms for the state tournament just yet.
"We've all been around the game long enough where things can happen," Waldal said. "I don't take anything for granted, not at all."