The Mon-Dak Conference champion and 23rd-ranked Williston State women will have an easier row to hoe when the Region XIII basketball tournament kicks off on Wednesday.
Easier than the Teton men, anyway.
WSC (26-3), which opens up with No. 4 seed North Dakota College of Science (18-11) at 6 p.m., earned homecourt advantage in the four-team, single-elimination tourney.
On the men's side - unless regular-season champion NDSCS goes down in the first round - second-seeded Williston State has a slim chance of bringing the title game to The Well.
But the WSC men will be at home on Wednesday night when they face third-seeded Bismarck State (15-11) at 8 p.m. That winner will face the Lake Region State at NDSCS victor in the title round on Monday.
Winner of the WSC-NDSCS women's game faces the Lake Region State-Bismarck State (14-13) winner for Sunday's championship game.
The Region XIII champions advance to a district championship round on March 7 and March 9 for spots in the NJCAA national tournament.
Unfinished business for Teton women
Williston State coach Luanne Axelson still hasn't rid herself of the sour taste.
A year ago, after winning the Mon-Dak and Region XIII tournament, the Tetons found themselves seconds away from a national tournament berth.
But Malcom X College (Chicago, Ill.) scored at the buzzer and put the brakes on WSC's season.
They've done everything this season, however, to ensure a mulligan.
The Tetons, whose roster is littered with local products, ran the table with an unblemished Mon-Dak record and have won 22 of their last 23 contests.
"There's some unfinished business there," Axelson said. "But right now your record doesn't mean anything. Everyone's 0-0 and the best team doesn't always win (the tournament)."
WSC handled its first-round foe, NDSCS, 78-54 in Wahpeton before downing them 62-51 at home.
The Wildcats are paced by Cheyenne Ironheart's 14.5 points per game.
"They've given us a battle before," Axelson said. "Right now everyone in the league is improved."
Eight of the Tetons' 13 players are North Dakotans, and are spearheaded by Harvey product Maggie Lorenz.
Lorenz, a sophomore forward, is putting up 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a night.
She's aided inside by sophomore Katie King (11 ppg, 5 ppg), a Kenmare alum, and Williston High product Jackie Lee (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
"We have a very experienced team with a lot of sophomores," Axelson said. "They've been in this position before."
WSC men healthy, ready
When Marquel Curtis - coveted by a handful of NCAA Division I programs - sat out five games with an ankle injury, it changed the complexion of the Tetons' season.
Up until that point WSC looked like the prohibitive favorite in the Mon-Dak Conference, having already bested NDSCS 69-68 in Wahpeton. It also had a pair of wins over then-No.9 North Idaho College and then-No. 25 Gillette College.
But when the versatile, 6-foot-4 Curtis (20 ppg. 5.4 rpg, 3 apg) was out, Bismarck State - a team the Tetons beat 98-69 with Curtis in the lineup-upset WSC 84-79 in Bismarck. The loss ultimately prevented the Tetons from a league title and the region tournament's No. 1 seed after splitting with NDSCS in the regular season.
Curtis dropped 33 in a 79-76 loss to the Wildcats last week.
"That loss really hurt us," Williston coach Eric Peterson said. "Right now, though, everyone (in the tournament) is on the same page and NDSCS is the favorite."
The tournament is an opportunity to settle a pair of rubber matches.
It starts with Bismarck State in the first round after the abberant season split. The Mystics, in their first year as an NJCAA Division I program, are led by former Turtle Mountain standout JR Gunville (17 ppg) and Bottineau product Justin McCloud (16 ppg).
If WSC makes it to the title round, it would then have a chance to win the season series with the Wildcats. WSC and NDSCS have met in the region title game the last four seasons.
"We've beaten each other in the other's gym," Peterson said of NDSCS. "We think we can beat them again."