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"It's a total turnaround": Inside the remarkable reversal of fortune for the Beach boys basketball team

What a difference a year can make. The Beach boys basketball have long been buried in the doldrums of their conference. Over the years, wins have been few, far between, and in last year's case, singular, as the team survived a one-win season. Thr...

Beach sophomore forward Gage Swanson puts up a shot inside after pump faking a pair of defenders against Heart River on Tuesday, Jan. 16 from Belfield High School. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)
Beach sophomore forward Gage Swanson puts up a shot inside after pump faking a pair of defenders against Heart River on Tuesday, Jan. 16 from Belfield High School. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

What a difference a year can make.

The Beach boys basketball have long been buried in the doldrums of their conference. Over the years, wins have been few, far between, and in last year's case, singular, as the team survived a one-win season.

Through the first 10 games of the 2017-18 campaign, life as a Buccaneer has been golden.

Currently sitting with the best record in Region 7, Beach is 9-1. Alongside Dickinson Trinity and Beulah, the team is undefeated against region opponents.

"We've played really good as a team, they are all kinds of looking out for each other," Beach head coach Al Swanson said. "Defensively, we've stepped it up. We battled a lot of hardships because we were young last year. We were inexperienced, but a lot of my kids this year are varsity starters from last year."

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With the returners benefitting from more playing time, their skills on the hardwood have improved. What were once weaknesses through a 1-18 2016-2017 season have become strengths.

"We've become a lot better rebounding team, we've become a lot better shooting team, but our passing and ball handing last year were horribly weak," Swanson said. "What plagued us that whole season was our turnovers and we've corrected that."

With certain facets of their game rectified, their point differential has seen a dramatic reversal. Being outscored by more than 17 points per game in 2016-17, the Bucs now own a plus differential a tick over 14 points.

Averaging 65.6 points per game, Beach is the highest scoring team in Region 7. However, even with the spike in their offensive numbers, the players believe defense is where their energy needs to be spent.

"I think in our region and the teams that we play, defense is most critical," senior center Gunnar Farstveet said. "We've been working pretty hard and trying some new schemes out. I say, 'defense always wins championships' so that's really what we're focused on and scoring will happen on its own."

As part of a team that features three other seniors, forwards Cole Erickson, John Summers and Josiah Orluck, this year has been particularly gratifying. Beach has already surpassed its combined win total from the previous three seasons.

"We've all been battling," Farstveet said. "It's been a struggle the last couple of years. We've kind of just stayed at it, worked hard and this year, it kind of just seemed to click. We've won a couple of games, we're feeling excited and we're pretty excited going forward."

Swanson believes the Buccaneers performance on the football field has sparked this turnaround. They finished 8-3 and earned a trip to the 9-man state quarterfinals.

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"Their confidence seems to be building off of what's been going on," Swanson said. "They had a good football season and it's kind of carrying over. (Last season) we were getting beat by teams that haven't changed a lot and (now) we are actually beating those teams."

Heart River is one of the rival teams they've gotten the upper hand over. Behind forward Gage Swanson, Beach defeated the Cougars 57-52 in overtime on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Entering as the team's leading scorer, the sophomore notched 10 of his game-high 21 points in the extra frame.

"There's been a lot of awesome wins," Swanson said before the Heart River contest. "Definitely the region wins have been pretty good too, they're the most important."

At the beginning of the season, the Buccaneers just wanted a sniff of regional tournament action, but as the wins pile up, so have the expectations.

"One of our team goals starting out the season was to make the regional tournament," Al Swanson said. "Now, one of our new team goals is to be competitive in the regional tournament. We are getting into the meat of our season where we have to play Heart River, Trinity, Beulah, the perennial, dominant teams in our region. We won't take any of those teams for granted. We just want to take each win as they come and savor each and every one of them."

Will Beach march their way through the postseason? That remains to be seen, but the ride for the Buccaneer players to this point has been a blast.

"It's a total turnaround," Gage Swanson said. "Everyone is way more optimistic. It feels way better to be honest, everyone is just happy. It's great, it's awesome."

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Senior center Gunnar Farstveet works in the post against Heart River on Tuesday, Jan. 16 from Belfield High School. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)
Senior center Gunnar Farstveet works in the post against Heart River on Tuesday, Jan. 16 from Belfield High School. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

Related Topics: BEACH BUCCANEERS
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