Titans to State Tourney following instant classic against Beulah

Titans advance to state tournament with victory over Beulah

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Titans' senior captain Jake Daniel embraces the long awaited victory over Beulah to become Class B Region 7 champions. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

Throughout the 2021 Class B Region 7 tournament, Trinity Head Coach Gregg Grinsteinner said the mission was to 'survive and advance’ for his second-seeded Trinity Titans. That mentality culminated during Thursday 's championship game against the top-seeded Beulah Miners. With three agonizing years of heartbreak hovering in the air so thick and inviting that you could almost feel the tension, it was officially 'now or never.'

Following a 72-64 win over Hettinger-Scranton on Monday and a 61-53 win over Bowman County on Tuesday, the wait was over. The rematch was officially set, and the Titans were ready.

Titans' Tanner Soehren goes up for the tip off against Miners' Carson Weigum. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)



Thursday's championship game played out in typical Trinity vs Beulah fashion. A full parking lot with limited seating inside the Trinity gymnasium set the backdrop to a soundtrack of hyped student sections cheering their teams to victory. As magical as the periphery felt, the true treat lay between the white lines as breath taking possessions, lead changes, seven ties and buzzer beater in an overtime finish painted a picture that will live in the minds of all in attendance.

For the past three seasons, Beulah gave Trinity its season ending loss in the regional tournament. This time, Trinity got its chance to return the favor on its home court and did so with a 61-53 overtime nail in the Miner coffin.

The Titans are returning to the NDHSAA Class B State Tournament for the first time since 2017.

"It was a battle," Grinsteinner said over the frenzied cheers. "We knew that both teams were really going to get after each other. Both teams deserved to win and we just were fortunate enough to make some plays down the stretch."

Just as the scoreboard was close throughout the entire matchup, so too were the official statistical numbers for the overall game. The Titans finished the game with a low shooting percentage of 33.3%, the same as its 3-point shooting. Beulah finished with an overall shooting percentage only slightly better at 34.6%, going 31.6% from behind the arc.

Trinity came into the game with aspirations of being scrappy in the rebounding department and did so by snatching 45 boards compared to Beulah recording 31. As a result, the Titans scored 14 points in second chance opportunities, highlighting that these Titans weren’t going to lay down to a Miners team that recorded only seven boards. The collection of rebounds led to the Titans hitting the line and netting 21 of its 33 free throw attempts. Beulah, always the competitive team went a solid 11 for 12.

The stark difference between this year’s Titans and those who fell short in previous attempts was their ability to rely heavily on its bench for depth, which delivered in unsurprising fashion adding 28 of the 61 points in the game.


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Head Coach Gregg Grinsteinner talking to freshman Jake Shobe in crunch time. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

Ninth-grader Jake Shobe was anything but a “timid freshman” coming off the bench and ending the night as the Titans' leading scorer with 15 points on 58% shooting in his 28 minutes of play. For junior guard Aiden Haich, despite not scoring a single point in the instant classic, took the reins and rallied the team in the extra frames, scoring 11 of the Titans’ 16 overall points in overtime to help propel the Titans to its long awaited title.

“Jake Shobe, Aiden Haich, they’ve been doing that all year coming off the bench and igniting us with a spark, and that’s a team victory,” Grinsteinner said as emotions began to take hold. “It’s a team victory and we just talk about the kids playing, it’s the kids that prepped our guys that play a lot all year long.”

The preparations for Thursday's championship game were not started on Wednesday, or even in February when the Titans first fell to the Miners 63-62 in double overtime. No, the initial domino fell at the beginning of the '20-21 season, culminating in a chain of events that would lead Grinsteinner and team to a title — and much needed redemptive win.

For the seven seniors, including key players Jake Daniel and Tanner Soehren, it was personal.

Unlike the prior three seasons, the slogan ‘there’s always next year’ was one that would not become an enduring motto. The win had to be now as the duo knew this would be their final crack at triumph over their equally matched rivals.

Beulah's Trey Brandt's 31 points played a key role in helping the Miners' push the action into overtime. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)



From the opening tip off, both teams made it very clear, scoring was not going to come easy, and both teams were going to have to be smart, and possessive, of the basketball on the offensive end of the court.

Both teams garnered 32 defensive stops, but Beulah’s tight-knit defense forced Trinity to 11 turnovers leading to nine points. Equal to the task, Trinity forced eight turnovers leading to five points.

By the first buzzer, the Titans held a narrow margin in a 15-13 lead.

In need of an answer, Beulah found its rhythm with the help of its own student section and stayed hot and in the closing seconds, Miners’ Brandt gave the Titans a flashback of last season’s tournament when he called for rain with a 3-point buzzer beater taking the game into half — tied at 25.

The second half started right where it left off with as both teams returned to the court full of energy and lofty goals. The Miners’ relentless pressure and high tempo game saw them let the air out of a growingly deflated Titans in the third, going on a 7-2 run to take a 32-27 lead over the Titans.

In dire need of a spark, the Titans’ prayers were answered when with two minutes remaining in the quarter, senior forward Nathaniel Jilek recorded an and-one inside the paint after grabbing an offensive rebound. That spark would ignite the Titans to their own run outscoring the Miners to end the third quarter.

With four fingers raised and rhythmic cadences calling the players to the occasion, the final frame began as all braced for what was sure to be a close finish.

Both teams delivered what could be the greatest eight minutes of basketball in North Dakota this season, as each team vied desperately to out maneuver their opponents’ strong defense.

Titans' senior Cole Fitterer recorded nine points in the victory over Beulah, most by attacking the basket. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

With the help of the senior leadership, the Titans continued to play at the best of its abilities, particularly when near the end of the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the Titans were dealt two devastating blows that was surely to test its overall chances of becoming triumphant.

With less than two minutes remaining, the score being either team’s game for the taking, Soehren, who was leading the team in rebounds with 10, fouled out of the game — silencing the Titan faithful, and breathing new life into an increasingly hyped blue side.

Moments later, with the Titans holding with all their might to a 45-42 lead, and with 19 seconds remaining, Trinity fans hoped it was enough for the victory and not another heartbreak.

Beulah had other plans.

The Miners made their way down the court and moved the ball well on the outside looking for their best chance at a 3-pointer. Finally, with the clock showing less than 10 seconds and fans on the edge of their seats, Miners’ senior Nathan Battest blocked out the noise and drained the clutch 3-pointer to tie the game at 45 — forcing overtime.

“It was kind of like, ‘crap, this is deja vu all over again, we’re going through the same thing,’” Titans’ senior captain Jake Daniel said. “I said to myself ‘not again, we’re not going to let this happen again.’”

Senior Nathaniel Jilek and the other Titans embrace the oncoming student section as following the trophy presentation. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)


Under Haich's elite shooting and the leadership of its seniors, including Daniel’s elite point guard abilities, the Titans would again go once more to the well...deeper than any player had dug before.

The result? A nearly perfect, in every category, overtime performance.

In just a few minutes the Titans drained two 3-pointers and a bucket in the paint, going to the line to drain an additional eight of its 12 free throw attempts.

Trinity’s defense went into complete lockdown mode in the extended minutes, freezing an otherwise hot Beulah side.

With less than 30 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Trinity held a 61-53 lead as all players, coaches and fans began to realize that the Titans had finally broken the Miners.

As the players on the bench began to jump and hype up the student section, Grinsteinner, unable to maintain his excitement, clapped his hands, jumped up and down and pounded his chair as he watched the seconds dwindle down.

“That was three years of frustration taken out,” Grinsteinner said. “We talk about raw emotion, I think a lot of things just came out, just the heat of the moment.”

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The Trinity Titans embrace seconds after the final buzzer sounded, declaring them as the regional champs. (Matthew Curry/The Dickinson Press)

For the Titans’ captains Daniel and Soehren, the emotions of winning the region title in their final year led to the two embracing in a celebration and echoing their coach’s raw emotion.

“It’s just hard to even fathom right now,” Daniel said. “It feels so awesome, we’ve seen a lot of heartbreak and to finally get over the hump and beat these guys, it’s amazing.”

The Titans’ seven seniors accepted the title trophy at half-court and were quickly rushed by the packed student section ranging from elementary students to senior classmates. Each of them having the same thing in mind — a state title.

Grinsteinner acknowledged the Miners on a hard fought battle and a strong season overall.

“Give them credit, they’re here every year and they’re a great program,” he said. “Jeremy (Brandt) does such a great job with those kids.”

Grinsteinner also acknowledged his seven seniors for their leadership and dedication to wanting to be regional champs all season long.

“It starts with them and they know that,” he said. “Jake (Daniel), Cole (Fitterer), Tanner (Soehren), they didn’t have their best offensive games but they did a heck of a job on the defensive end. They know if they’re not on at the offensive end, then somebody is going to come pick them up, and I thought they did and when you have kids like that know what they want to do, it’s just so satisfying and gratifying.”

The Titans are scheduled to take on Kindred High in the first round of the state tournament at 9 p.m., on Thursday, March 18.

Trinity: 15 10 8 12 16 - 61

Beulah: 13 12 7 13 8 - 53

Trinity: Jake Shobe 15, Jake Daniel 14, Aiden Haich 11, Cole Fitterer 9, Nathaniel Jilek 5, Tanner Soehren 5, Nick Deschamp 2.

Beulah: Trey Brandt 31, Nathan Battest 8, Trapper Skalsky 6, Dawson Zuroff 5, Carson Weigum 3.

Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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