EISEN: Expect the unexpected in the Region 6 GBB tourney

Since the graduation and dissolvement of Bishop Ryan’s state championship dynasty from 2013-15, Region 6 girls basketball has turned into the Wild West. Predictability has gone from one extreme to the other.

Your guess is as good as mine in predicting which team will rise to the top this week at the Minot Municipal Auditorium and clinch a spot at the Class B state tournament.

While district champions Rugby and Ryan are certainly the favorites to meet in the Region 6 championship game, holding a No. 1 seed doesn’t guarantee any safety.

Look at what happened last year. Rugby and Ryan entered the regional tournament as district champions, just like this season, and both got eliminated by No. 2 seeds in the semifinals.

Our Redeemer’s, the defending Region 6 champions, couldn’t even make it out of District 12 this season and won’t defend its regional title. The Knights were knocked off 59-51 by the streaky Lewis & Clark-Berthold Bombers in a regional qualifier game.

The Bombers (13-9) entered the District 12 tournament as a No. 6 seed. They get Rugby (19-2) in the first round.

The No. 5 state ranked Panthers in the latest media poll have won the last four District 11 tournaments, but only have one state tournament appearance in 2016 to show for it. That was a rather forgetful showing as well because they lost all three of their matches to take eighth place despite coming in as the No. 4-seeded team.

It was, however, the program’s first trip back to state since 1976. Rugby was still in Class A at that time.

Safe to say that Rugby and District 11 Senior Athlete of the Year Madison Uhlenkamp went redemption this time around. And everything has seemingly lined up perfectly for them to do so.

Well, except for that potential rematch with Ryan in the championship game.

The Lions (13-9) are one of three teams to beat the Panthers this season — doing so with a 49-46 home win on Dec. 8. Over two months have passed since that encounter, and Ryan has had its up-and-downs throughout the season.

Four road losses to Des Lacs-Burlington (59-45), Hazen (58-52 OT), Velva (43-40) and Dickinson Trinity (47-46) going into the postseason happened to be a false red flag for Ryan. They picked up 10-point plus wins over Glenburn, L&C-Berthold and Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood for the District 12 title.

They avoided DLB, the District 12 regular season champions. The Lakers (17-5) have spiraled out of control here late in the season and just barely kept their season alive with a 50-49 double overtime victory over Surrey in a regional qualifier.

DLB’s collapse, losing four out of its last six games after starting the season 15-1, is staggering. Losing momentum and confidence can derail a season in a hurry. But, nothing is preventing them from hitting the reset button and reaching the state tournament for the first time since 1990.

The only thing that changed because of the Lakers’ downfall is a more compelling first-round game with Velva (17-5). So, in what probably should have been a semifinal contest, gets bumped up a day and into the primetime 7:30 p.m. slot tonight.

The Aggies have beat DLB twice this season. Plus, they have the aforementioned win over Ryan — a potential semifinal opponent, if the Lions get past District 11 No. 4 Bottineau (10-12) in the first round.

Velva hasn’t reached the state tournament since 1998. They lost a 61-54 overtime heartbreaker against ORCS in the regional championship game last season.

Looking for the dark horse team to support? That would be the Mavericks from Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood. MLS (14-8) upset DLB in the District 12 semifinals, 40-37, to reach the Region 6 tournament for the first time since 2013. The Mavericks have two wins over DLB on their resume this season.

MLS will see Towner-Granville-Upham (9-13) in the first round. The District 11 Titans, like the Berthold Bombers, entered their district tournament with the No. 6 seed. They shocked No. 3 Bottineau in the first round, 42-37, and survived a back-and-forth finish with No. 5 Nedrose in a regional qualifier, 60-58.

In a 53-48 contest on Dec. 9, MLS beat TGU in Towner.

The field is finalized with a cluster of varying head-to-head results creating this bracket. How it all shakes out proves to be an exciting mystery that is begging to be solved.

The first round gets underway at 3 p.m. today at the Minot Municipal Auditorium. Semifinals to follow on Tuesday and the championship will be played at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

This is the opinion of Alex Eisen. He covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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