Young at heart: 3 sophomores and a freshman start for Beach
BEACH -- No other team in the Class B state girls basketball tournament is as young as Beach. Then again, none of the other seven teams may be more experienced when it comes to the big stage. Though Beach starts just one senior with three sophomo...
BEACH -- No other team in the Class B state girls basketball tournament is as young as Beach.
Then again, none of the other seven teams may be more experienced when it comes to the big stage.
Though Beach starts just one senior with three sophomores and a freshman in only her second season playing organized basketball, the Buccaneers know exactly what they're getting into this weekend.
"I felt we had a shot at it before the season began," Beach head coach Bob Waldal said. "Then the kids surprised me even more."
Though Beach was No. 5 in the Miss Hoopster preview magazine's preseason rankings and eight of 12 coaches in Region 7 picked them to win their third consecutive title, the Buccaneers knew there were many who expected this to be the year they could be overcome.
Entering the season with no returning starters but with four players who contributed quality minutes the past two seasons, the Buccaneers open their third consecutive state tournament against Region 1 champion Kindred at 7:15 p.m. today at the Bismarck Civic Center.
"I think they thought we'd be a pushover because we are so young," Beach sophomore forward Cydni Stedman said. "But we have a lot of experience playing with the older girls and we just came together as a team."
When the 2011-12 season began, Beach quickly got back into its old habits.
"We do have a lot of young players, but last year when he put in the JV, a lot of times we had quite a bit of varsity experience," sophomore guard Hailee Farstveet said. "This year, we got it together a little bit more."
The Buccaneers (22-2) led Region 7 in both scoring (66.5 points per game) and scoring defense (41.8 ppg), have four players averaging double figures and suffered their only losses to Region 4 champion Linton-HMB 60-52 on the road Dec. 10 -- it was their second game of the season -- and dropped another on Jan. 21 against No. 1-ranked Carrington 66-59 on a neutral floor.
They've since won 12 straight, the closest game being a 69-60 come-from-behind victory over upset-minded Hazen in the region championship game.
Waldal credits 6 a.m. morning workouts in the offseason for the Buccaneers' comeback. Despite his team's youth, the coach said they realized late in that game that all their hard work would be for nothing if they didn't find a way to win.
"That was a big reason why we won that last game," Waldal said. "'You're not going to give up.' I think that's what that breeds and that's the kind of culture we want around here."
After playing reserve roles the past two seasons, Farstveet, Stedman and sophomore guard Bailey Waldal all stepped off the bench and into the starting lineup with ease.
Farstveet averages 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4 steals per game, and has made 41 3-pointers. Waldal adds 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2 assists. Stedman adds 11.1 points, 6 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Kelcee Dykins, the Region 7 senior athlete of the year, leads the team with 18.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. She is Beach's only senior.
Freshman Channa Clarin, a 6-foot starting center, is in just her second year playing varsity basketball. Last season, Bob Waldal said he had to teach her the game, 'like coaching a fourth-grader.' While she still has improvements to make, Clarin has played a much-needed role in the middle for Beach, is averaging 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and is described by Waldal as a 'very bright young prospect and built for the game.'
"I never thought I'd make it here," Clarin said. "I thought I'd be like a C-squad player or something, but he (Waldal) pushes everyone to their limits and it took a lot of hard work to get here. It was worth it."
Juniors Morgan Nunberg and Kari Schmeling, freshman Ashlynn Dietz and eighth-grader Brooklyn Zachmann usually get into the act too. Zachmann has played in nearly every game and doesn't look like a junior-high player, Waldal said.
"The poise," Bob Waldal said. "You don't know what kind of poise they're going to have in varsity ball and here she is playing the district and regional championship under the gun and playing good defense."
Asked if the team's goal is to reach state the next two seasons, Bailey Waldal laughed and, of course, said yes. She said everyone on the team knows how to get there now too.
"We just have to work hard at it," she said.