It was a seemingly endless offseason for the Four Winds-Minnewaukan boys basketball team following its runner-up finish to Milnor in the Class B state tournament in March.
The second-ranked Indians have put that heartbreak behind them with five straight victories and a Ramsey County tournament championship to begin the season.
FW-M opened its season with a nine-point victory at Grafton and captured the tournament championship with wins over Devils Lake JV, Benson County and North Star. The Indians outscored their opponents by 24 points per game.
MDN File Photo
Four Winds-Minnewaukan guard Trayvon McKay pulls up for a jump shot against Rugby during the Class B state tournament in March. Now a junior, McKay is averaging a team-high 22 points per game for the 5-0 Indians.
"I think it made us a little more hungry to start the season," FW-M coach Rick Smith said. "They were excited coming back. They're ready to play and they want to get back after it. After the state tournament, it's a long summer."
The Indians' biggest strength is depth. At least eight different players registered points in each of their first four games. FW-M had 15 scorers in a 98-46 victory against Benson County in the Ramsey County tournament semifinals.
"We showed our depth," Smith said. "We played an average of 10 or 11 guys per game, which is a strength of ours because we have a lot of kids that can play at any time. When our starters go to the bench whether it's for foul trouble or for a breather we don't really lose anything because we have a lot of kids that could actually start for us."
The Indians have 17 players on their roster nine seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman.
Junior Trayvon McKay has been the team's leading scorer in all five games and averages 22 points per contest. FW-M averages 73.2 points per game. Smith said the high scoring output is a testament to the Indians playing as a team.
"We were really unselfish with the basketball," he said. "We had some really good open looks, not only for shots, but for layups underneath the basket."
The Indians' schedule only gets tougher. Their next five games are against Starkweather-Munich, preseason No. 5 Beulah, No. 8 Des Lacs-Burlington, Class A Turtle Mountain and No. 4 Rugby.
"We want to get better each and every game," Smith said. "We have a tremendous schedule this year. Playing these games early against some really top-ranked teams is going to show us: No. 1, what we're made of; No. 2, what we need to work on to get better and; No. 3, what we have to prepare for come postseason."
Carrington grapplers win Velva Invite
A strong showing at state has carried over to this year for the Carrington wrestling team.
The Cardinals dominated the Velva Invite on Saturday with 279 points as 17 grapplers placed in the top five of their respective weight classes. Carrington had placers in every weight class expect 113 pounds.
Carrington had eight first-place finishers including 152-pound sophomore Walker Carr. Carr placed first at the state tournament at 132 pounds last year.
The Cardinals finished third at the state dual and individual meets. All but one placewinner 285-pound champion Cordell Schroeder return from last year's team that accumulated 143.5 points at state. Returning placers Bryce Carr, Walker Carr, Billy Holtan, Brett Lyman and Riley Lura are all sophomores and Matthew Neumiller is a junior.
Carrington has 10 placewinners altogether from previous state tournaments, which has Carrington thinking about a state title.
"We put a real strong emphasis on team," coach Josh Kerbaugh said. "We're not worrying about what other guys are doing so much as what we're doing. We know we're going to need that balance. Our expectation is for a state championship so we have to have all our guys spread out."
Carrington is once again loaded with young talent. Its roster consists of just two seniors Joseph Bakke and Patrick Freeman and three juniors. Bakke placed first at the Velva Invite at 132 and is one of six Cardinals with an unblemished record this season.
"It's definitely an advantage because we have them all coming back and then we get them varsity experience at an early age, which is very important," Kerbaugh said. "It's good to have youth. You can never have enough of that."
Ranked teams suffer early-season losses
While some ranked teams are enjoying a fast start to their season, others have already been hit with a bit of adversity.
Des Lacs-Burlington, Beulah and Parshall are among the top 10 squads that suffered losses on Saturday. The Lakers ranked third last week suffered a 26-point loss at Hazen. DL-B fell five spots to No. 8 as a result.
Beulah lost just one game last year and held the No. 1 ranking throughout most of the season. This year, the Miners have already matched last season's loss total with a 20-point loss to then-No. 9 Linton-HMB. Beulah dropped out of the top 10 after being ranked fifth to start the year.
Parshall - ranked eighth at the time - fell 71-68 to Our Redeemer's Christian School. The Braves fell out of the top 10, but regrouped with a 69-57 victory at Trenton-Trinity Christian on Tuesday.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.