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.
Region 1 - #3 Richland (21-2): Richland is paced by one of the top players in Class B with junior Cole Myers averaging 18.2 points per game along with seven rebounds. Myers does an excellent job of getting to the basket but can also knock down shots from the outside. The Colts have four players that average in double-figures. Along with Myers, juniors Gavin Reiland (14.8) and Carter Lingen (13.7) and senior Hunter Lentz (10) are all averaging 10 points per game or more. Reiland is one of the best at finding his teammates for open shots and averages four assists per game and an impressive 4.8 steals per contest. Richland is heavy at the top with those four student-athletes and coming off the bench they have athletes but they don’t lean on them too much. Juniors Zach Wulfekuhle and Carson Anderson are averaging 2.5 points per game along with a pair of assists. The Colts have no trouble in scoring as they averaged 62.3 points per game in the Region 1 tournament. Fourteen times this season Richland has scored 70 points or more in a game. After suffering a 72-69 overtime loss to Central Cass on Jan. 18, Cody Reiland’s squad has won its last 14 contests. I’ve seen Richland play in person and they go fast. The Colts earned the No. 3-seed and will face Powers Lake at 2:45 p.m. Thursday.
How they got here: Richland outlasted Kindred 50-47 in the Region 1 tournament behind 20 points from Lingen.
Last time at state: 2006
Region 2 - #1 Thompson (23-1): On paper, this was Thompson’s year to get out of Region 2 for the first time in program history. They beat Hillsboro-Central Valley not once, not twice but three times this season and dethroned the back-to-back state champions. The Tommies are led by senior Hayden Overby who averages 19 points per game along with eight rebounds and 2.5 assists. Senior Marcus Hughes is Thompson’s 3-point threat as he’s knocking down 43 percent from beyond the arc. Senior guard Cadyn Schwabe wasn’t on the floor for the first part of the 2018-19 season after suffering an injury at the tail end of the football season but the Tommies floor general came back in January and the green machine has been rolling ever since. Seven student-athletes for Brandy George’s squad are averaging five points or more per game this year. This team can beat you multiple ways and twin towers in juniors Chance Danner and Clay Odenbach make for a nice one-two punch in the paint. Danner and Odenbach are averaging 7.8 and 9.3 points per game and combine for just over 13 rebounds per contest. Thompson is an all-around solid team as defensively they are holding opponents to 46.9 points per game. The Tommies received the No. 1-seed and should have no problem keeping their emotions in check at their first state tournament appearance.
Comment from coach: “We need to defend every possession, get stops and rebound,” George said. “If we can get our opponents to miss shots, that allows us to get into our transition and get the ball up the floor quickly. On the offensive end, we need to play with good pace. Staying active without the ball is going to be important for us. We simply need to "be who we are" on both ends.”
How they got here: Thompson beat Hillsboro-Central Valley 59-53 for the third time this season in the Region 2 title game. Overby finished with a game-high 26 points.
Last time at state: never
Region 3 - Ellendale (15-10): When you look at Ellendale’s record you’ll probably notice they don’t have as many wins as the rest of the field. However, they have one of the best guard-forward combos in the state with junior Hunter Thorpe and senior Austin Molan. The two student-athletes are averaging a combined 32.2 points per game for a team that scores 54.3 per contest. Brian Vance’s crew lost seven of nine contests during the middle of January into February but finished the year strong. The Cardinals lean heavily on controlling the tempo of the game and if they can do that against some of these other high powered offensive teams, they could have a good weekend. Other than Thorpe and Molan, Ellendale gets scoring out of freshman Scott Wagner. The 6-foot-6 center averages 9.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds. The Cardinals are no stranger to the state tournament scene as they’ve been in the field two out of the last three years. Vance and company have a tall task in the quarterfinals with No. 1-seed Thompson on the other side of the court.
Comment from coach: “We are going to have to control the tempo and slow the games down a little bit, we like to the scores in the low 50's,” Vance said. “Rebounding and turnovers are going to be big also.”
How they got here: Ellendale defeated Carrington 56-47 in the Region 3 championship game after Thorpe scored 16 fourth quarter points
Last time at state: 2017
Region 4 - #5 New Rockford-Sheyenne (22-3): The third time was the charm for New Rockford-Sheyenne in the Region 4 championship game. Two of the Rockets three losses this season came against Four Winds-Minnewaukan but this time NR-S got the best of the Indians. Junior Bo Belquist leads the team in scoring with 15.8 points per game and four assists along with 5.8 rebounds. The Rockets also get quality scoring out of senior Teddy Allmaras at 15.2 points per game and junior Hunter Thompson at 12.6. NR-S isn’t the tallest team in the tournament but senior Tucker Longnecker leads the team in rebounding with 6.2. The Rockets play their best when multiple players get involved and have scored 80 points or more eight times this year. Defensively, Cook’s crew is one of the best as they are holding opponents to 53.3 points per contest. Three of the Rockets last four games have been decided by a combined 15 points. This squad has shown that in close games they can hold their composure and not fold. That will definitely help them on Class B’s biggest stage.
Comment from coach: “I think to be successful in the state tournament we need to keep playing unselfish like we have been all year long,” Cook said. “When we get four or five guys in double figures scoring is when we are at our best. We aren’t the tallest team in the tournament so rebounding with be a huge key for us. Also you know when you get to this tournament every possession is important so our defensive mentality must be zoned in at all times.”
How they got here: The Rockets got by the Region 4 favorite Four Winds-Minnewaukan 58-53 in the title game.
Last time at state: 2005
Region 5 - #2 Shiloh Christian (21-3): Shiloh Christian rolled through the Region 5 tournament with a 37-point win over Washburn, a 33-point win over Flasher and a 24-point win over New Salem-Almont. The Skyhawks have all the pieces to win three games in three days this week with most of their roster having state tournament experience. The highly talented multi-sport athlete Jaden Mitzel averages 19 points per game for a team that scores 66.6 per contest. The junior guard also is second on the team with eight rebounds per game and four assists. He and 6-foot-9 senior Macauley Young play a mean high-low game. Young averages 16 points per contest and a team-high 13 rebounds. What makes Shiloh Christian so tough is that Mitzel and Young aren’t the only two players that can score. Seniors Canann Fagerland and Matthew Reep are playmakers and junior Trey Brunelle can knock down some 3-point shots. This team just gels together so well that’s why I think they are one of the favorites to win this tournament. Everyone talks about how Region 5 isn’t super competitive but the Skyhawks had the toughest strength of schedule according to classbbasketball.com. After not finishing where they wanted to at the 2017-18 state tournament, Shiloh Christian has all the tools to bring home a title.
Comment from player: “We just need to work hard,” Mitzel said. “In the state tournament, everybody wants to win and everyone is going to work hard but it’s about the people and the teams who work harder and have grit. It’s not about who is taller or stronger, it’s about who wants it more with that grit. I think our team has that grit and we all are mentally and physically ready.”
How they got here: Shiloh Christian defeated New Salem-Almont 52-28 in the Region 5 championship game behind 25 points from Macauley Young and Jaden Mitzel.
Last time at state: 2018
Region 6 - #4 Bishop Ryan (22-3): After suffering a heartbreak overtime loss in the 2017-18 state title game, Bishop Ryan is back. The Lions are paced by two stellar senior guards in Mason Hedberg and Ben Bohl. Bohl leads the team with 24.4 points per game and 9.1 rebounds. Hedberg on the other hand averages 20.1 points per game with 8.2 rebounds. The two also have combined for 100 steals this season. The Lions lost some height off last year’s squad but they have still been able to outscore their opponents by an impressive 21.8 points. Bohl is shooting 41.8 percent from beyond the arc and 58 percent from the field. Bishop Ryan also gets some scoring out of senior Chinaza Udekwe at 9.2 points per game. The Lions were dominated by Shiloh Christian (71-55) and Thompson (73-57) earlier this season but finished the regular season on a 13-game winning streak. Jeremy Feller’s crew didn’t win the District 12 championship after falling to Our Redeemer’s 52-51 but beat them by 38 in the Region 6 title game. Playing in their own backyard, the Lions will look to get back into that championship game.
Comment from coach: “We need to find a level we can play at for 32 minutes,” Feller said. “We have had some explosive quarters (Region Championship game second quarter 35 – 3, Regional first-round game first quarter quarter 33 – 8 and second quarter 25 – 6 and last district tournament game third quarter 21 -11 and fourth quarter 17 -4) over the last several games but now we need to find a way to be more consistent. For us to be successful this weekend we need to make defense our number one priority.”
How they got here: Bishop Ryan cruized past Our Redeemer’s 68-30 in the Region 6 championship game.
Last time at state: 2018
Region 7 - Beulah (19-4): Even though Beulah is making its second straight appearance at the state tournament, the Miners are a different squad. Other than freshman Trey Brandt, Beulah is rolling with guys that didn’t see a lot of playing time last season. One of the Miners go-to leaders and leading scorers senior Chad Morsette missed the tournament because of an ACL injury and second leading scorer junior Jonah Larson is new to the team this year. Morsette averages 17 points per game and Larson is pouring in close to 12 a game along with a team-high 10 rebounds. Sean Gierke and Shaye Yeager saw minutes last season but have taken on bigger roles this year. Brandt leads the team with 4.5 assists per contest and Gierke adds about four a game as well. On top of that he averages 8.4 points per game and five rebounds per contest. The Miners may not have received a seed but they are playing their best basketball right now. Since its Dec. 28 loss to Rugby, Beulah has rattled off 16 wins in its last 17 games including a 73-68 victory over Shiloh Christian — the team the Miners face in the quarterfinals.
Comment from coach: “For us to be successful we will need to continue to play good defense, that has been our calling card all year is our ability to defend well,” Brandt said. “We will need to have a good mix of inside/out on the offensive end, we have been at our best when we are able to get points in the paint which in turn opens things up for our perimeter players who shoot the three well. I feel that we are playing as well right now as we have all season long and hopefully that carries over into the state tournament. Even though we were at the state tournament last year we don’t have a lot of experience returning, Trey Brandt is really the only player we have back from last year they played heavy minutes, Morsette had a torn acl, Yeager and Gierke played just a few minutes and Jonah Larson is new to Beulah this year.
How they got here: Beulah out dueled Dickinson Trinity 48-46 in the Region 7 title game behind 15 points from Yeager.
Last time at state: 2018
Region 8 - Powers Lake (20-5): It was a rough start to the 2018-19 season for Powers Lake as they lost five of its first nine games. But then everything started to line up for the Ranchers. Jordan Carlson's squad won their final 16 contests and punched a ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 1939. Powers Lake's final starting lineup consists of two seniors, one junior and two sophomores. Seniors Kyle VanBerkom and Aiden Nordloef lead the way for this Region 8 team and the Ranchers get key contributions out of underclassmen Noah Fredrickson and Noah Schroeder.
How they got here: Powers Lake beat Mandaree 74-72 in overtime for the Region 8 crown.
Last time at state: 1939
#2 Shiloh Christian over Beulah
#3 Richland over Powers Lake
#1 Thompson over Ellendale
#5 New Rockford-Sheyenne over #4 Bishop Ryan
#2 Shiloh Christian over #3 Richland
#1 Thompson over #5 New Rockford-Sheyenne
#1 Thompson over #2 Shiloh Christian
2. Shiloh Christian
5. Powers Lake
6. New Rockford-Sheyenne
7. Bishop Ryan
When: March 4-7
Where: Devils Lake High School
(D7) No. 1 Four Winds-Minnewaukan
(D8) No. 1 Dunseith
(D7) No. 2 New Rockford-Sheyenne
(D8) No. 2 St. John
(D8) No. 3 Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich
(D7) No. 3 Dakota Prairie
(D7) No. 4 Benson County
(D8) No. 4 Rolla
Who is the favorite?
All three of Four Winds-Minnewaukan’s losses this season have been non-Region 4 defeats. The Indians lost to Hillsboro-Central Valley by one on a last-second 3-pointer by Landen Reed and a 62-61 overtime loss to Shiloh Christian to end the regular season. FW-M has some height on its team with 6-foot-9 sophomore Bronson Walter standing tall in the middle. The Indians also have some of the best guard play in freshman Jayden Yankton and junior Douglas Yankton. The combination of fast play and in your face defense is what gives the Indians the advantage in this region tournament. FW-M will be tested, however, I think they are the favorite to get back to the state with a more experienced crew compared to last year.
Dunseith: There are a number of players that can score for Dunseith. Seniors Michael Two Hearts and Hunter Gladue lead the way as they combined for 45 of the Dragon’s 66 points against Rugby to finish off the regular season. On the flip side, if a team tries to take those two players away junior Treagan Azure will make you pay. Along with Two Hearts, sophomore Julius Grant has the nose for pulling down rebounds. The Dragons suffered losing streaks of three and two games during the year, however, they’ve won eight of their last 10 contests. If this team can stay focused, they’ll have any chance to win a game or more this week.
New Rockford-Sheyenne: The Rockets had a shot at taking down FW-M in the District 7 championship game but came up short, 54-49. Two of New Rockford-Sheyenne’s losses have come to the Indians by a combined 16 points. Seniors Tucker Longnecker and Teddy Allmaras will need to hit some 3-pointers in this tournament for NR-S to advance. The Rockets are undersized but 6-foot-1 junior Hunter Thompson can break anyone down in the post. After finishing 13-10 last season, NR-S is feeling confident heading into this week and definitely can make some noise.
Dark Horse Team
Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich: With the heartbreak of last year’s Region 4 championship loss on their mind, a team I wouldn’t want to face in the first round is Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich. Yes, this team lost some pieces from their 20-win season last year but at certain points of the year, the Cardinals have looked solid. L-E-M had chances to beat FW-M and St. John but couldn’t finish the job. I know the Cardinals were blown out by Thompson (71-43), Dakota Prairie (72-45) and NR-S (68-51) but don’t sleep on this team with a loaded upperclassmen roster.
(D8) No. 1 Dunseith over (D7) No. 4 Benson County
(D7) No. 2 New Rockford-Sheyenne over (D8) No. 3 Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich
(D7) No. 1 Four Winds-Minnewaukan over (D8) No. 4 Rolla
(D7) No. 3 Dakota Prairie over (D8) No. 2 St. John
(D7) No. 2 New Rockford-Sheyenne over (D8) No. 1 Dunseith
(D7) No. 1 Four Winds-Minnewaukan over (D7) No. 3 Dakota Prairie
(D7) No. 2 New Rockford-Sheyenne over (D7) No. 1 Four Winds-Minnewaukan