It's always interesting to see who had the best turnarounds from one season to the next. We take a look at six teams that improved their win totals by a good chunk in the 2018-19 season from a season ago.
Glen Ullin-Hebron - 14 wins
It was a rough 2017-18 season for Glen Ullin-Hebron as they managed to come away with just five wins. But when you take a deeper dive into the Bearcats season, you’ll notice 10 of their 17 losses were decided by 10 points or less. That trend continued throughout the 2018-19 season as four of GU-H’s five losses were by 10 points or less. At the helm of the Bearcats, 14 win turnaround was first-year head coach Greg Pruitt. GU-H had six seniors on its roster and made it to the Region 7 quarterfinals for the first time since the mid-2000s. It’ll be interesting to see where Pruitt takes this team with just four student-athletes returning from this year’s roster, however, it was not a disappointing season for the Bearcats.
Hazen - 12
Coming into the 2018-19 season, Hazen had just 10 wins in its last two seasons. The Bison made an impressive turnaround this year and finished with their most wins in a single season since 2013-14 (19 wins). Benjamin Nelson’s crew had a fair amount of size on its roster as four student-athletes were 6-foot-3 or taller. The Bison won six of their final eight regular season games and won a first-round game in the Region 7 tournament for the first time since 2015-16. Hazen will lose four seniors but bring back juniors Garrett Ward and Isaac Doll along with 6-foot-6 sophomore Austin Richter.
Central Cass - 11 wins
Three of Central Cass’ four wins in 2017-18 came during the second half of the season. The Squirrels also had a shot at defeating Kindred (15-9) in the opening round of the Region 1 tournament but lost by five 5 (54-49). That end of the year success fueled Central Cass for the 2018-19 season and even though they started 3-2, the Squirrels lost to Thompson by seven and Grafton by two (65-63) in overtime. Matteson Norman made the right calls in the offseason and Central Cass improved by 11 wins from the year before. After the Squirrels suffered a 70-59 loss to Hillsboro-Central Valley on the road, Norman and company rattled off nine straight wins. Unfortunately, they lost back-to-back games by a combined 13 points in the Region 1 tournament to end the season. Central Cass will lose an important piece in senior Jonah Lietz but the Squirrels bring back playmakers in junior Christian Lietz and sophomore Joshua Dixon. I could see Central Cass improve its win total in 2019-2020 as well.
New Rockford-Sheyenne - 11 wins
It’s a little odd that a team with a winning record in 2017-18 showed up on this list but when you make it to the state tournament, good things must have happened. New Rockford-Sheyenne won seven of their final nine regular-season contests a year ago but had trouble with Four Winds-Minnewaukan and Langdon-Edmore-Munich throughout the year. The Indians continued to be a problem for the Rockets in 2018-19 winning two out of three contest. However, NR-S won when it counted and defeated FW-M 58-53 in the Region 4 championship game. The Rockets won 24 games this season and improved by 11 wins from last season. With four seniors on the roster, Tyler Cook’s squad will lose a few important pieces but 11 student-athletes return including juniors Bo Belquist, Hunter Thompson and Nathan Holzwarth.
Lewis & Clark - Berthold - 10 wins
Lewis & Clark - Berthold was not the deepest team in Class B this year but had a solid 2018-19 season after struggling a year ago. After starting the 2017-18 season 3-3, the Bombers lost 13 of their final 15 contests. Christopher Brown’s squad had a similar finish to this season, however, the start was much better. The Bombers won 13 of their first 15 contest and were firing on all cylinders. The Region 6 squad lost to Bishop Ryan 71-60 on Feb. 1 and ended the season losing five of its final seven games. At the end of the day, a double-digit win turnaround from 2017-18 has to have the Bombers happy. There are three seniors on L & C- B’s roster and one of those student-athletes are Thomas Burke. The 5-foot-11 guard finished with 28 points against the Lions in the Bombers region qualifier loss. Brown has some good young talent that should help them next season.
Flasher - 9 wins
If the basketball would’ve bounced Flasher’s way in 2017-18, this Region 5 team may not have been on this list. The Bulldogs lost five games by five points or less a season ago. Brian Nieuwsma and his team were able to flip that switch, however, coming into this season. Flasher was on the winning end of close games more often than not. Three of the Bulldogs five losses came from Shiloh Christian including a semifinals loss to the Skyhawks in the Region 5 tournament. Senior Cody Ruscheinsky scored a team-high 19 points in that game. Flasher will lose six seniors but bring back a playmaker in junior Jaron Reid. The Bulldogs will also have to get more production out of juniors Greg Greicar and Dylan Woodbury as they’ll take on expanded roles next season. The Bulldogs won more than 17 games for the first time since 2013-14.
When: March 4-7
Where: Scheels Center
No.1 Richland (18-2)
No. 2 Kindred (18-2)
No. 3 Central Cass (14-6)
No. 4 Oak Grove (12-9)
No. 5 Milnor-North Sargent (13-8)
No. 6 Northern Cass (9-12)
No. 7 Enderlin (10-11)
No. 8 Lisbon (10-11)
Who is the favorite?
Richland lost its only two games of the season by four points including a 72-69 overtime loss to Central Cass. Earlier this week the Colts jumped up to No. 3 in the 12th Class B Poll and are looking to make it to the state tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season. I wouldn’t say there’s a heavy favorite in the Region 2 tournament but I do believe Richland is the top team. Combo guard Cole Myers is a playmaker and can play both inside and out. I really like the way junior Colten Evanson plays with his size and senior Hunter Lentz can make opponents pay for their mistakes. Richland is a speedy team and puts up a lot of points as they’ve scored 70 points or more in 13 games.
Kindred: There are two teams I’m confident in that can stop Richland from making it the state tournament and one of them is Kindred. The Vikings are one of the taller teams in Class B with 6-foot-8 sophomore Gavin Keller and 6-foot-6 senior Sawyer Rolland. Kindred also has a lot of upperclassmen leadership with nine juniors and seniors on its roster. This is a team that can play solid defense with seniors Trenton Duchscherer and Michael Hall leading the way. The Vikings held Richland to 50 points in a loss and have held eight teams to 40 points or less this year.
Central Cass: Central Cass was stuck trying to find its team identity during the first half of the season. The Squirrels lost six of their first 12 games including a 65-63 overtime loss to Grafton and a 54-49 loss to Kindred. Central Cass is paced by senior Jonah Lietz and junior Christian Letz and they get good offensive play out of sophomore Joshua Dixon. This is a team that’s put all its pieces together at the correct time. Matteson Norman’s squad has won its last eight games including a 57-56 victory over Milnor-North Sargent.
Dark Horse Team
Enderlin: Senior Chance Bye has only played 11 games this season for Enderlin due to an injury and for the last 10 regular season games Bye was not on the floor as his team was 2-8 in that stretch. Bye was back on the court for Enderlin’s play-in game against Tri-State and the Eagles came away with the 84-67 victory. The Eagles are a tough matchup because their opponents have to prepare for 6-foot-9 freshman Joseph Hurlburt who can stretch the floor. Hurlburt is averaging a team-high 18 points per game and 12.9 rebounds. He also is second on the team with 31 made 3-pointers. On the other side of the block, the Eagles have freshman 6-foot-7 Gustave Hurlburt to look to for inside scoring. Gustave is averaging 11.2 points per game and 7.3 rebounds. Seven players are averaging 3.0 points per contest or more for Calvin Kraft’s team. As the No. 7-seed, the Eagles matchup with No. 2-seed Kindred in the quarterfinals, however, don’t be surprised if there’s an upset here.
No. 1 Richland over No. 8 Lisbon
No. 4 Oak Grove over No. 5 Milnor-North Sargent
No. 7 Enderlin over No. 2 Kindred
No. 3 Central Cass over No. 6 Northern Cass
No. 1 Richland over No. 4 Oak Grove
No. 7 Enderlin over No. 3 Central Cass
No. 1 Richland over No. 7 Enderlin