DLB, Rugby hold top seeds going into GBB districts
The postseason has arrived for North Dakota Class B girls basketball teams. By the end of this week, only eight teams will remain in Region 6.
Here is an overview of Thursday’s first-round district games taking place in District 12 at the Minot Municipal Auditorium and District 11 at Velva High School.
District 12 tournament
No. 1 Des Lacs-Burlington
(15-4) vs. No. 8 South Prairie (4-14), 3 p.m.
Players to watch: Caitlyn Vogel (DLB), Kyley Lauf (DLB), Karena Verbitsky (SP) and Cayley Olson (SP).
After starting the season 15-1 and briefly getting ranked inside the Top 10 in the state, the Lakers have tumbled down the stretch by losing their last three games.
Losses to the Top 2 District 11 teams in Rugby and Velva (twice) is an issue the Lakers will hope to correct next week, but they can’t get caught looking too far ahead either since they lost 52-47 on Jan. 25 to potential semifinal opponent Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood.
The Royals are winless in District 12 play this season. They do have more upperclassmen, but are the underdogs that lack the size needed to match up with the Vogel and Lauf tandem or freshman forwards Brynley and Brooklyn Benno.
Previous meeting: Jan. 2 at DLB, the Lakers won 73-36.
No. 4 Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood (12-7) vs. No. 5 Our Redeemer’s (9-10), 4:30 p.m.
Players to watch: Leah Feland (MLS), Calli Brackenbury (MLS), Karolynn Winger (ORCS) and Karlee Zablotney (ORCS).
The Mavericks notable win this season was over top-seeded DLB, which ultimately helped them take the four seed over ORCS. Against the Lakers, Feland scored 19 points and she went off for 34 points against Washburn on Feb. 2.
MLS has a dangerous trio if Feland, Brackenbury and Janie Savelkoul are effectively running the offense.
ORCS counters with its own big three in Winger, Zablotney and Tessa Olson. The reigning Region 6 tournament champion Knights endured a seven-game losing streak in the middle season, but had won three straight before ending the regular season with a 69-47 loss to District 11 No. 2-seeded Velva.
Previous meeting: Jan. 9 at ORCS, the Mavericks won 54-49.
No. 2 Bishop Ryan (10-9) vs. No. 7 Glenburn (10-9), 6 p.m.
Players to watch: McKinlee Harmon (BR), Emma Passa (BR), Sierra Hansen (G) and Baylee Bachmeier (G).
First year head coach April Nakatani has had to manage the ups and downs that come with this streaky and unpredictable Lions squad. Ryan notched a key win over District 11 No. 1 Rugby (49-46) at the start of the season, was rolling with a six-game winning streak in the middle of the season, but couldn’t hang with Des Lacs-Burlington (59-45) or edge out Velva (43-40) at the end of the season.
Dominate defense is the key to Ryan’s success. The Lions have held their opponents to under 40 points in seven of their 10 wins.
The Panthers go-to scorer, Hansen — averaging 16.8 points in her last four games and racked up 25 points against Bowbells-Burke Central to close out the regular season — can expect to be harassed by the Lions every time she touches the ball. So, getting secondary scoring from players like Bachmeier and senior Isabella Spokely is vital.
Previous meeting: Jan. 8 at Glenburn, the Lions won 53-37.
No. 3 Surrey (13-6) vs. No. 6 Lewis & Clark-Berthold (11-8), 7:30 p.m.
Players to watch: Hunter Fuchs (S), Raquell Lemere (S), Abby Simons (LCB) and Grace Simons (LCB).
The Bombers were the one team Surrey didn’t want to see in the first round. The much-improved Mustangs, after two consecutive seasons of finishing seventh in the district, face the one higher-seeded team that has already beat them twice in the regular season.
Surrey last won a district game and reached the Region 6 tournament during the 2014-15 season.
The Simons-led Bombers, with support from sophomore Toni Hamilton and junior Corina Pabian, are a dangerous dark horse team that not only has two wins over Surrey on its resume, but also gave DLB everything they could handle in a hard-fought 43-40 home loss on Jan. 8.
Previous meeting: Jan. 25 at Berthold, the Bombers won 47-44.
District 11 tournament
No. 1 Rugby (17-2), bye
Players to watch: Madison Uhlenkamp, Tristin Lunde and Anni Stier.
Ranked in the final media poll as No. 6 in the state, Rugby sits out the first day of the tournament. The Panthers are riding a 10-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 1,153 to 606.
A deep rotation and the inside-outside attack with the three players mentioned above allowed Rugby to roll through the regular season without hardly a scratch. But, two cracks did emerge.
While the loss to Ryan showed that Rugby can still be beat in this region, a slim 45-44 defeat against still undefeated (19-0) and No. 1 in the state Shiloh Christian also proved that nothing is out of reach for these Panthers.
Previous meetings: 6-0 in District 11 with an average margin of victory of 42.3 points in those contests.
No. 4 Westhope/Newburg (3-16) vs. No. 5 Nedrose (10-9),
Players to watch: Harley Blada (WN), Ellie Braaten (WN), Hailey Roberts (N) and Mikalyn Berglof (N).
The Sioux went 3-3 in District 11 games and 0-13 elsewhere. Not a great look for the district. But, for Westhope/Newburg’s sake, they at least performed when it mattered the most. One of those wins was against Nedrose as well.
A close game would be unfamiliar territory for both teams, as they have combined to play in five games that were decided by five points or less this season. Yet, oddly enough given their record, the Sioux only lost 59-54 to DLB on Jan. 22.
The Cardinals started the season 5-2 before injuries and their strength of schedule started to take a toll. This is their third season in the district and the first time they didn’t finish last in the regular season.
Roberts is coming off a 26-point performance against Glenburn in Nedrose’s last outing on Feb. 1.
Previous meeting: Dec. 18 at Newburg, the Sioux won 60-51.
No. 3 Bottineau (9-10) vs. No. 6 Towner-Granville-Upham (7-12), 5:30 p.m.
Players to watch: Sydnie Nelson (B), Jaclyn Hanson (B), Jaidyn Brummond (TGU) and Mackenzie Woodall (TGU).
Bottineau didn’t slip below .500 until its last game of the regular season. The Stars have lost seven out of their last nine games after starting the season 7-3.
This is a rematch of the No. 4/5 district match up that went into double overtime last season. No. 5 TGU came out on top in that contest, 58-52, and eventually went on to reach the Region 6 tournament.
The Titans are in a similar slump to the Stars, going 2-7 since the calendar flipped over into 2018.
Previous meeting: Jan. 11 at Bottineau, the Stars won 52-40.
No. 2 Velva (15-4) vs.
No. 7 Drake/Anamoose (1-18),
Players to watch: Hope Brewer (V), Rachel Mack (V), Roxy Wagner (DA) and Bethany Filler (DA).
Looking for redemption after losing in both the District 11 and Region 6 championship games last season, Velva hasn’t missed a beat after graduating All-Region players Jonnah Lee and Morgan Erickson.
Three of the Aggies’ losses are against ranked teams: No. 6 Rugby (50-33), No. 7 Carrington (71-50) and No. 8 Thompson (53-32). But, they ended the season strong with wins over Ryan (43-40), DLB (53-34) and ORCS (69-47). Velva’s Sydney Larson scored a team-high 20 points against the Knights.
It’s been an unforgiving season for the Raiders. Their lone win came four games into the season against Max, 53-26. They have been outscored by an average of 37.4 points per game and have allowed 68.1 points per game.
Previous meeting: Jan. 16 at Drake, the Aggies won 88-27.
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.