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Night Hawks presented with a challenge no other team in the state will face

Hettinger-Scranton will have to replace the best high school girls’ basketball in the state from last year.

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Hettinger-Scranton junior Ella Jensen. (Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press)

For the past three years, the Hettinger-Scranton Night Hawks have been the class of Class B Region 7 girls’ basketball. Led by perennial all-state performer Samantha Oase, the Night Hawks have won the region crown and advanced to the state tournament in 2019-2021, which happened to be the first time they have done so.

The impact Oase had on Hettinger-Scranton basketball can’t be overstated. The 6-foot forward had virtually every award in the book from her sophomore year on; three-time first team All-State, three-time Class B state tournament All-Tournament team, three time all-Region 7 selection.

Her senior season was capped off by earning Miss Basketball honors in North Dakota, awarded annually to the top high school basketball player in the state. Oase averaged 20.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and two assists per game in her final year, becoming the highest scoring player in school history in the process.

Despite their multiple trips to the state tournament, it only resulted in one victory over the course of nine games, with their highest finish coming in 2019 in 4th place.

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Hettinger-Scranton freshman Laela Jensen. (Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press)

Their focus is now shifted towards life without their best player in program history.

“We focus on the process,” Hettinger-Scranton head coach Kelly Pierce said. “Results take care of themselves. Every day we try to get in the gym and get better…our younger players are showing they’re understanding the game better.”

The Night Hawks would appear to take a step back from their recent success going into the 2021-22 season, but only they know what it takes to win the Region 7 championship and until a new champion is crowned, they are expected to fight to keep it in their name.

Senior guard Bailee Pierce (14.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 78 AST) is back for her final round in a Night Hawk uniform and boasts experience that very few players across the state can say they have. An All-Region selection a year ago, Pierce has been a part of all three region championships and will once again be expected to play a big role in their quest for another.

“Her leadership is like having another coach on the floor,” Pierce said. “She knows she’s not going to get by on athleticism. She knows how to play the game and she’s earned the trust of her younger teammates and they understand when things are going bad, let’s lean on Bailee. She’ll help us get through it.”

Pierce will help lead a team filled with experience from past state tournaments, but also newcomers to the program and those looking to become the next great player for Hettinger-Scranton.

Junior Ella Jensen (5 PPG) is another experienced player for the Night Hawks looking to keep the momentum the program has built in the last few years.

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Hettinger-Scranton senior Bailee Pierce. (Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press)

Rounding out some key rotation spots is junior Ally Schalesky and freshmen Laela Jensen and Monico Morris.

“By year's end we can have a nice well-rounded team,” Pierce said. “With a lot of girls that can play free and easy and score the basketball.”

Region 7 is always a battle and Pierce knows after all the success they have had over the last few years, it won’t be easy going for a four-peat in the region.

“Beulah and Bowman County, those two are probably the favorites in my mind,” Pierce said. “But there’s eight or nine teams that are really good. Every night out, Region 7 is going to be a battle. There’s good coaches and athletes.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALLGIRLS BASKETBALL
Race Archibald is a former sports reporter with The Dickinson Press.
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