Kindred (20-3): For the third straight season, Kindred is one of the final eight remaining teams in Class B girls basketball. The Vikings are led by a couple of freshmen in Abby Duchscherer and Terryn Johnson. Duchscherer leads the team with 21.5 points per game and is connecting on 55.4 percent of her field goals. Johnson pours in 13.2 points per game as she and Duchscherer are bringing down close to 15 rebounds per game combined. Kindred also gets good production out of freshman Tina Freier who is averaging 6.3 points per game along with 3.8 rebounds. The Vikings get some solid leadership from Jordyn Burner as well as 3-point shooting. Burner is averaging 7.6 points per game and takes a team-high five 3-pointers per contest. The junior guard connects on close to two per game as the Vikings converted on just 26.2 percent from beyond the arc. The Vikings got disrespected by not receiving a Top 5 seed but I think that’ll give even more motivation to the Region 1 squad. Every time Kindred steps on the hardwood they are going to have one of the best players in Duchscherer who is also a dangerous passer at 4.2 assists per game. The Vikings won a state championship in 2016-17 after defeating North Star 49-42 and if they can get past No. 2-seed Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich in the quarterfinals, I don’t see why Kindred couldn’t end up in the 2018-19 state title game competing for another championship.
Comment from coach: “Kindred is young, aggressive, and competitive,” Vikings head coach Sam Brandt said. “Together is the only way and these girls love to compete. There isn't much these kids would do for each other on and off the floor, I am confident they will rise to the challenge.”
How they got here: The Vikings defeated Richland 71-53 in the Region 1 championship game. It was Kindred’s fifth consecutive Region title appearance.
Thompson (21-2): Thompson is no stranger to the state tournament. The Tommies have been to the big stage now six times since 2009. Jason Brend’s squad is one of the more experienced teams in the field as Thompson’s starting lineup consists of four upperclassmen (two seniors and two juniors). The Tommies are a very well balanced team with five players averaging between 7.0 and 10.5 points. The Region 2 team won’t beat you from the 3-point line but if anyone is to catch fire it’ll be sophomore Mackenzie Hughes or juniors Lauren Cunningham and Macy Jordheim. The three student-athletes have connected on 59 of Thompson’s 80 made 3-pointers. Something that Brend’s crew prides themselves are is defense. Thompson is holding opponents to 35 points per game and held teams to 30 points or less 12 times including four straight times in the first half of the season. The No. 3-seeded Tommies will battle Shiloh Christian in their quarterfinal matchup and are one of my favorites to win the championship. The combination of a balanced attack and strong defense is why I think Thompson has a good chance in this tournament.
Comment from coach: “We will need a balanced offense with improved efficiency,” Tommies head coach Jason Brend said. “Playing an aggressive defense will also be key against top level competition. Although we are usually outsized, winning the rebounding game is going to be very important for us to have success in the state tournament. Games can be won or lost from the free throw line so confidence shooting while the clock is stopped will also be a key.”
How they got here: Thompson beat Grafton 49-46 in the Region 2 championship game to punch its ticket to state.
Kidder County: I’ve heard some Class B fans call Kidder County the juggernaut and while they did receive the No. 1-seed, I’m not certain there’s a juggernaut in this tournament. The Wolves are really talented at the top of their lineup with three players averaging double-figures as sophomore Madelyn Schmidt leads the way with 15.8 points per game. Schmidt is Kidder County’s 3-point threat as she has made 72 shots from beyond the arc this year. Junior Brittany Rath and senior Jaslyn Magstadt are averaging 15.1 and 11.8 points, respectively. The Wolves are averaging close to 25 rebounds per game as five players are hauling down 3.5 or more per contest. Kidder County will have no problem scoring points as they’ve scored 65 points or more seven times this season. The Wolves also knocked down 14 3-pointers in a Region 3 quarterfinal game not long ago. Kidder County has all the pieces to win its first state title since 2009-10 and to do so they’ll have to finish the season undefeated (27-0). I think the Wolves have the ability to create turnovers into scores, the outside shooting, and the coaching to take some hardware back home.
Comment from coach: “The Kidder County Wolves will need to continue to create turnovers on defense and be consistent on offense in order to compete at the state tournament,” Wolves head coach Dan Welder said. “We rely heavily on our defense and we hope it will continue to lead us to success.”
How they got here: The Wolves defeated LaMoure/Litchville-Marion in the Region 3 championship 56-48.
Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich: There are a lot of talented players in this tournament and one of those is Callie Ronningen. The Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich junior is averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.3 steals. Ronningen is a do-it-all type of player and has helped the Cardinals to 20 straight wins. L-E-M has two juniors including Kaitlyn Scherr who averages 12.7 points per game in its lineup along with three underclassmen. The Cardinals aren’t a very deep team as they roll with just a six-man rotation. Sophomore’s Lexi Olsen (7.4 ppg) and Kaylee Lowery (7.3 ppg) give the Cardinals more scoring options in the starting lineup. Midway through the season head coach Rob Scherr called on seventh-grader Jay Henderson to be the first player off the L-E-M’s bench. Henderson averages 3.3 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per contest. Her quickness and attacking ability on both the offensive and defensive side of the basketball give the Cardinals another player to go to. Defensively L-E-M is one of the toughest squad’s in Class B and held opponents to 34.3 points per game this season. However, with not a very deep team one of the No. 2-seeded Cardinals’ weakness is getting in foul trouble. I think L-E-M has the toughest quarterfinal matchup with Kindred but Ronningen can keep her team in any game.
Comment from coach: “After losing four senior’s from last year’s team, … we knew we would have a young team with a lot of growth,” L-E-M head coach Rob Scherr said. “We played only five girls early, … midway through the year, Jay Henderson ended up winning our sixth girl spot. We play man to man, we have the ability to switch on screens where we feel we all can guard anybody. We press in some from the whole game. We don’t want anyone walking the ball up
against us. Weakness – Foul Trouble.
How they got here: The Cardinals defeated Four Winds-Minnewaukan 59-46 in the Region 4 title game.
Shiloh Christian: Out of all eight teams, Shiloh Christian averages the least amount of points at 48.9 points per game. Senior Olivia Martin averages a team-high 11 points per game and sophomore Jacie Hall adds 10 points per contest. The Skyhawks also get good guard play out of senior Allison Bearstail as she is scoring eight points per game and a team-high 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals This will be the Skyhawks sixth appearance at the state tournament after winning the crown in 2015-16. Defense and the ability to rebound the basketball will keep Shiloh Christian in games but someone needs to have a big night offensively if the unseeded Skyhawks want to upset No. 3-seeded Thompson.
Comment from coach: “Every team we face at this weeks state tournament will be a challenge,” Shiloh Christian head coach Daryl Bearstail said. “We want to enjoy the experience, and play with tremendous effort. We must play together on both ends of the court, and execute our game plan very well. It will be a great tournament.”
How they got here: Shiloh Christian defeated Solen 57-52 in the Region 5 championship game.
Rugby: In the last five seasons Rugby has compiled a 107-21 record and has played in five of the last eight Region 6 championship games. The Panthers have another strong team this season, which features a balanced scoring attack with senior Anni Stier averaging a team-high 14.5 points per game. Rugby plays a mixture of four seniors and three sophomores as well as an eighth-grader in Mykell Heidlebaugh. Sophomore Brooke Blessum is second in scoring average with 10.2 points per game and leads the team with a 52 percent shooting percentage. Seniors Karsyn Hager and Maria Blessum combine for close to 16 points per contest. Six Panthers players score at least 4.2 points per game or higher, which makes Rugby a tough team to defend. Brooke and Maria Blessum are corralling close to 20 rebounds combined per game and 6.5 steals. There’s a lot of talent on this Panthers roster and I know this team can give No. 1-seed Kidder County a run for its money.
Comment from coach: “If were are going to be successful this weekend we will have to continue to play good defense and not allow second-chance opportunities,” Rugby head coach Jennifer Brossart said. “Another key for us will be how well we take care of the basketball this weekend. In order to win championships, we have to play defense and keep the turnover ratio low. This tournament is very wide open and whichever team strings together three good basketball team will come out a champion this weekend.”
How they got here: Rugby slipped past Velva 44-42 in the Region 5 title contest.
Hettinger-Scranton: The Nighthawks are one of the best teams in the field at distributing the basketball. Earlier this season Hettinger-Scranton made 25 shots off 25 assists and are averaging 19 assists per contest. Junior Alyssa Andress leads the team with 16.5 points per game and 4.4 assists. Junior Sam Oase is second on the squad with 15.1 points per contest and hauls down 8.6 rebounds. Senior Abigail Kludt rounds out the three double-digit scorers with 10.5 per game. The Nighthawks are a fairly deep team as eight student-athletes have seen action in 22 games or more. Of those eight players, five of them are averaging 3.1 rebounds or more per game. This is an all-around talented and well-coached team, however, they are making their first state tournament appearance as a co-op. The No. 5-seeded Nighthawks have the talent to beat any team in this tournament but will inexperience on the state’s biggest stage be a problem? I’d say no but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Comment from coach: “For us to win the State Tournament, we are going to have to play three solid basketball games as the field in this tournament is really strong,” Night Hawks head coach Kelly Pierce said. “Keys for our team to play well are to play with pace. We like to put pressure on teams both offensively and defensively. Our strength on offense is our ball movement and ability to create open shots with our passing.”
How they got here: Hettinger-Scranton defeated Dickinson Trinity 42-36 in the Region 7 title game.
Trenton: Besides Kidder County, the only other remaining undefeated team in Trenton. For the most part of the 2018-19 season, junior Kaitlynn Hove led the Tigers in scoring. However, lately, it been a mixture of Hove and sophomore Alyssa St. Pierre. Hove averages a team-high 15.9 points per game but St. Pierre isn’t far behind at 13.8. Trenton also gets solid offensive play out freshman Jacee Turcotte and sophomore Alexa St. Pierre. Seven student-athletes are averaging 4.6 points per contest or more for the No. 4-seeded Tigers. The Region 8 team is outrebounded its opponents 34.6 to 20.9 and are averaging 15.1 steals per outing. Trenton is another team in the field that prides itself on defense and are holding opponents to an impressive 29.4 points per game. The Tigers have held opponents to 25 points or less nine times this season. Bob Turcotte has put together a dangerous team from out west and they’ll be able to handle everything that’ll be tossed at them. The Tigers starting five has played a lot of minutes this season and have accounted for 75 percent of their scoring. Keeping them out of foul trouble will be key for Bob Turcotte and company.
Comment from coach: “Our goal is to play the best basketball of our season during this tournament,” Tigers head coach Bob Turcotte said. “Although we have played some good basketball to get to this point, I feel there are several things that can help us if we do them well-- we will have to limit unforced turnovers, do a consistent job on the defensive boards, play solid, contesting defense every possession & we will have to consistently knock down the good quality looks we are looking to get offensively. We do all of those, we will give ourselves a very good chance to be successful in the state tournament.”
How they got here: Trenton escaped Parshall 51-49 in the Region 8 championship game.
#2 Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich over Kindred
#3 Thompson over Shiloh Christian
#1 Kidder County over Rugby
#5 Hettinger-Scranton over #4 Trenton
#3 Thompson over #2 Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich
#1 Kidder County over #5 Hettinger-Scranton
#3 Thompson over #1 Kidder County
2. Kidder County
3. Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich
8. Shiloh Christian
Final note: I think this is the strongest field we’ve seen in quite some time at the state tournament. I honestly believe all eight teams have a shot at winning the championship. These are just my predictions and thoughts and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some unseeded teams that make it to the semifinals.
When: Feb. 18 - 21
Where: Mandan High School
(D10) Center-Stanton (18-3)
(D9) Grant County (15-6)
(D10) Underwood (15-7)
(D9) Shiloh Christian (15-6)
(D9) Solen (11-9)
(D10) Wilton-Wing (13-9)
(D9) Flasher (9-12)
(D10) Washburn (9-13)
Who is the favorite?
I don’t think there is a clear favorite in the Region 5 tournament. Center-Stanton comes in with the best record but they’ve played a ton of close games against these seven other teams throughout the regular season and Underwood has beat them twice. I’ll give the Wildcats a slim advantage in this tournament but I also think a case can be made for each team to win the Region 5 title.
So, with that information, now what?
Heading into the final week of January, Grant County had a 9-6 record. The Coyotes won their final six games and captured a District 9 title. There’s two student-athletes who are making an impact this season that were on last year’s state championship team in sophomore Isabelle Boyer and junior Molly Wetzel. Those two know what it takes to grind out wins in the postseason and six straight wins has Grant County confident as ever.
Shiloh Christian has one of the taller players in Class B with sophomore Jacie Hall standing at 6-foot-2. The Skyhawks lost to Solen 54-51 in the District 9 tournament but ended the regular season on five straight wins including a victory over Solen. The Skyhawks also defeated Flasher and Grant County on back-to-back game nights in January and over Underwood and Washburn.
Underwood is the sneaky team in this tournament because they’ve looked stellar at times and flat out bad against top Class B teams. The Comets have two wins over Center-Stanton and victories over Wilton-Wing, Flasher and Washburn. Junior Taysha Snyder is a solid player for the Comets and with no seniors on the roster this team is built for success next year as well.
I’ll be honest predicting this tournament was the hardest thing I’ve done in past few days. I wouldn’t be surprised if all eight of these teams ended up booking hotels for the state tournament in Grand Forks.
Center-Stanton over Flasher
Solen over Wilton-Wing
Grant County over Washburn
Shiloh Christian over Underwood
Center-Stanton over Solen
Grant County over Shiloh Christian
Grant County over Center-Stanton