Hitting the hardwood

Previewing the Region 6 boys basketball field

Alex Eisen/MDN Bishop Ryan guard Mason Hedberg (right) takes off on a fast break during a Class B boys basketball game played last season at Bishop Ryan.

The time for scrimmages and preseason practices is over. Now it’s time to play for real.

The Class B boys basketball season is set to begin as teams from both District 11 and District 12 alike are hungry for the opportunity to lace up and begin their journey to postseason glory. Here’s a look at the field.

District 11

Ruling the District 11 landscape are the Rugby Panthers. The reigning district champs came up one win short of a trip to state last season, falling to Bishop Ryan in the Region 6 championship, 56-45.

But the Panthers are back and reloaded for another run this time around. Rugby is led by junior forward Jaden Hamilton.

The sharpshooter is one of the most explosive players in the region, and he proved that in last year’s District 11 championship by dropping 36 points on Velva in a 73-59 victory. Also back in the fold is junior guard Trace Goven, another efficient scorer capable of taking over games.

Rugby’s biggest threat to the throne are the Velva Aggies. After reaching the Region 6 Tournament last season, the Aggies’ saw an abrupt end to their year with a 66-61 loss to Our Redeemer’s in the opening round.

Leading the way for Velva this season is a trio of seniors. The first is forward Hayden Lee, a player who has emerged as the Aggies’ leader on and off the court. Facilitating Velva’s offense is Seth Fahy, a guard with strong ball handling skills and plenty of composure.

Lastly, the Aggies will lean on Colton Frankl from behind the arc. The 5-foot-9 guard is a deep threat capable of getting hot at any moment. With plenty of veteran talent returning, Velva has its sights on taking down the Region 6 powerhouses.

“Our goal is to elevate our expectations even more than last year,” Velva head coach Isaac Sondrol said. “Anything can happen, and we feel we can play with anyone, including teams like Rugby and Bishop Ryan.”

Another team hoping to shake up the region hierarchy are the Bottineau Stars. The team showed its not to be underestimated last year, reaching the Region 6 Tournament before losing a nail biter to Des Lacs-Burlington in the opening round, 61-58.

Despite the departure of standout guard Maxwell Henry, the Stars remain a threat due to their suffocating defense. Bottineau employs a daunting full-court press, resulting in a number of turnovers and easy looks at the basket.

District 12

At the top of the District 12 food chain are the Bishop Ryan Lions. The team flexed its muscles once again last season, going all the way to the Class B state championship game before ultimately falling to Hillsboro/Central Valley in overtime, 73-71.

Now the Lions hope to find their way back to the big stage, as they’re led by the most fearsome duo in the state. Seniors Ben Bohl and Mason Hedberg – both of whom recently committed to Minot State – are back for one more run at the title.

Bohl is an aggressive, all-around scorer capable of taking it to the rim amongst the trees. Hedberg, meanwhile, is one of the deadliest three-point gunslingers in the state.

The possible Achilles’ heel for Ryan this season is having undersized, less-experienced big men. The Lions lost their starting power forward and center to graduation this past summer, leaving a considerable hole to fill in the paint. It’ll be up to the Lions’ star senior duo to make up for that.

“We definitely have some young kids, so it’ll be all about finding a good balance,” Ryan head coach Jeremy Feller said. “Kids are going to have to step up and fill roles, but Ben (Bohl) and Mason (Hedberg) obviously bring a lot of leadership for us.”

Hoping to stay in District 12 contention this year is an Our Redeemer’s team that’s dealing with an even more extreme roster shakeup.

After a third-place finish in the Region 6 Tournament last season, the Knights graduated seven seniors. Among those seniors was Our Redeemer’s Big Three of Leyton Lang, Tayten Reid and Jayden Wetzel.

In addition to the loss of these players, the Knights also have a new head coach in Brody Bosch now at the helm.

Bosch plans for Our Redeemer’s to have a quick-tempo offense paired with plenty of pressure defense. Leading the way for the Knights is the senior duo of Matthew Hendrickson and Jason Brown.

Also in the District 12 mix are the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers, who claimed fourth place in last season’s Region 6 tournament. Although DLB lost its leading scoring in Arron Grandy along with fellow seniors Josh Knutson and Eddie White Bear, the Lakers still boast plenty of experience with those returning.

The Lakers’ roster is made up entirely of upperclassmen and is led by junior guard Dante Gunville, who is expected to become the team’s go-to scoring option this season.

Not to be forgotten are the Surrey Mustangs. Despite entering last season’s District 12 Tournament as the No. 7 seed, the Mustangs defied the odds and reached the Region 6 Tournament, where they ultimately fell to Rugby by a score of 68-31.

Running the show for Surrey is junior forward Cody Fuchs. The 6-foot-1 forward, who is also a dangerous football player, will be leaned on as the Mustangs attempt to make a splash once more in the district.

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.