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Class B boys basketball state tournament preview

Alex Eisen/MDN The North Dakota Class B boys basketball tournament gets underway today at the Minot State Dome.

It’s all going down at the Minot State Dome.

The top eight teams in Class B boys basketball have converged in Minot for the state tournament, which begins today. With each region representative eying the coveted state title, fireworks are sure to ensue.

Here’s a complete breakdown of those eight competitors.

Region 1: Richland

There’s a stampede coming from Richland.

The No. 3-ranked Colts can run up the score with ease, as they average 73 points per game. It’s this high-octane offense that Richland rode all the way through the Region 1 tournament.

Now the Colts and their dedicated fan base have arrived in Minot, where they’ll be competing in their first state tournament since 2006.

“It takes a lot practice and hard work to get to this point,” Richland head coach Cody Reiland said. “It’s really sparked a lot of interest for everybody in the area.”

Richland has shooters to spare, as three players average over 13 points per game.

The top scorer is Cole Myers, a 6-foot-2 junior with a pure jump shot to compliment a number of post moves. Myers averages 18.2 points per game and also snags a solid seven boards per contest.

Also in the mix is junior Carter Lingen. The 5-foot-11 guard is the poster boy for consistency, averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 assists per contest.

The Colts also have a stellar two-way player in junior Gavin Reiland. The 5-foot-11 guard is a lockdown defender that averages a ludicrous 4.8 steals per game to go along with 14.8 points.

It’s that sort of defensive intensity that the Colts will need out of every player, as they prepare to take on a Powers Lake squad that isn’t afraid to shoot the basketball today at 2:45 p.m.

“I’ve been watching (Powers Lake), and they have a couple of guys that can shoot really well,” Reiland said. “They have some size, too. We’ll just have to make sure to keep our pressure defense on them.”

Region 2: Thompson

Don’t call Thompson inexperienced.

The No. 1-ranked Tommies (23-1) enter uncharted territory after defeating two-time defending state champion Hillsboro/Central Valley, 59-33, last Thursday in the Region 2 championship to clinch their first-ever state tournament appearance. Despite this, the team is very much familiar with playing on the big stage.

Thompson’s players are used to high-pressure situations, as they’re the reigning state baseball and 9-man football champions. And, with the No. 1 ranking attached to their name, the Tommies are prepared to get their opponents’ best shot on the hardwood.

“The guys know there’s a target on their back,” Thompson head coach Brandy George said. “That stems from not just basketball but the success they’ve had from football and baseball.”

Thompson boasts a number of seniors on its roster, including star player Hayden Overby.

In addition to having a number of post moves that make him a close-range threat, the 6-foot-6 forward isn’t afraid to pull up from the mid range as well. Overby averaged a team-high 19 points and eight boards this regular season.

Running the backcourt for the Tommies is Cadyn Schwabe. After being selected as an all-region guard last season, the 5-foot-10 senior missed the first eight games of this year with a broken collarbone that he suffered in the 9-man state football championship on Nov. 9.

Since returning on Jan. 8, Schwabe is averaging 3.9 assists and 2.8 steals — both team highs — to go along with 9.8 points per game.

“Cadyn (Schwabe) is probably the quickest kid I’ve ever coached in my life,” George said. “That helps in our transition. Having him back just adds another dimension to our team and speeds us up a little bit.”

The Tommies kick off their state tournament run with an opening-round game against Ellendale today at 6:30 p.m.

Region 3: Ellendale

Few teams in the state are as hot as the Cardinals are right now.

Ellendale entered the District 5 tournament on Feb. 22 with a meager 10-9 record, but the team has since hit its stride en route to its second state tournament berth in the past three years.

“I don’t know if we could be playing better basketball right now,” Ellendale head coach Brian Vance said. “We’re playing a lot smarter. The kids just kept believing, and things have worked out well for us.”

The Cardinals (15-10) outlasted Carrington in the Region 3 title game thanks in part to marksman Hunter Thorpe. After going scoreless in the first three quarters, the junior forward exploded for 16 points in the final frame to lift his team to a 56-47 win.

In addition to Thorpe, who enters the tournament averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 boards per game, Ellendale also has a consistent scorer in Austin Molan. The 6-foot-1 senior guard leads the team with a healthy dosage of 16.7 points per contest on 47 percent shooting.

But perhaps the Cardinals’ biggest hidden gem is Scott Wagner. The 6-foot-6 freshman center has vastly improved since the start of the year and is averaging a team-high 8.1 boards per game in addition to 9.4 points per game.

“(Wagner) has come around a long way for us,” Vance said. “He was kind of clumsy at the beginning of the year… but he’s slowly progressing and growing into his big body. He’s going up stronger and getting after rebounds.”

Ellendale will need players such as Wagner to step up as it takes on No. 1-ranked Thompson in the opening round.

Region 4:

New Rockford-Sheyenne

New Rockford-Sheyenne is certainly battle tested.

After losing to then-No. 4-ranked Four Winds/Minnewauken on Jan. 14 by a score of 67-56, the Rockets (20-3) exacted their revenge with a 58-53 win over the Indians in the regional championship game to secure their spot in the state tournament.

“These kids had a little edge to them,” New Rockford/Sheyenne head coach Tyler Cook said. “They thought they could knock Four Winds off, and they did it. I think they’re ready to go play on the big stage, finally.”

No. 5-ranked New Rockford-Sheyenne will lean on its All-Region backcourt duo of Bo Belquist and Teddy Allmaras for scoring. Belquist, a 6-foot junior, enters the tournament averaging team highs of 15.8 points, four assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Allmaras isn’t far behind. The 5-foot-11 senior boasts an average of 15.2 points, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game. In addition to lighting up the scoreboard, Allmaras has also embraced a leadership role with the team.

“Teddy (Allmaras) has been starting for us for four years now,” Cook said. “He’s the kind of the guy that keeps up together when things go bad. He’s always calm and takes great care of the ball.”

Manning the frontcourt for the Rockets is Hunter Thompson. The 6-foot-1 junior more than makes up for his lack of size in the paint with his aggressive rebounding and averages 5.6 boards per game to go along with his 12.6 points per game.

New Rockford-Sheyenne will kick off its tournament run with another backcourt-centric team in No. 4-ranked Bishop Ryan today at 8:15 p.m.

Region 5:

Shiloh Christian

Good luck matching up with Shiloh Christian.

The No. 2-ranked Skyhawks (21-3) take flying high to a new level, as they tower above the competition with their unmatched height.

The biggest example, quite literally, is Macauley Young. The 6-foot-9 center is a nightmare for defenses, averaging 16 points per game and a tournament-high 13 boards. As if the senior’s post moves don’t do enough damage, Young is also capable of extending his range for the occasion 3-pointer.

“It’s better than having a 5-foot-9 center,” Shiloh Christian head coach Brad Miller said. “We just had a 3-point shooting contest in practice the other day, and (Young) won. He’s capable of putting a shot up from anywhere.”

But Young isn’t the only problem-causing big on the Skyhawks, as Jaden Mitzel also enforces his will down low. The 6-foot-2 junior forward leads the team with 19 points per game and crashes the glass to the tune of eight boards per contest.

Shiloh’s offense wouldn’t be complete without some solid guard play from Matthew Reep. The 6-foot-3 senior is the team’s floor general, averaging a team-high six assists per game.

It’s seasoned players such as Young, Mitzel and Reep that the Skyhawks have in spades, as every person in the rotation played in last year’s state tournament.

“These guys have all been there and played in this tournament before,” Miller said. “So I’m not anticipating any stage freight.”

Shiloh will look to lean on both its size and its experience when it kicks off the state tournament today at 1 p.m. with a quarterfinals matchup against Beulah.

Region 6:

Bishop Ryan

Expect plenty of purple and gold in the seats of the Minot State Dome.

The No. 4-ranked Bishop Ryan Lions (22-3) will be playing in their backyard, as they make the 300-foot trip from their school to the arena. It’s there that the team will look to make another deep postseason run after taking second at state last season.

“We’re hungry,” Ryan head coach Jeremy Feller said. “It’s definitely an advantage to be able to sleep at your own place and not have two or three people keeping you awake at night. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to mental preparation.”

Mental preparation hasn’t seemed to be a problem for the Lions after they dominated the field at the Region 6 tournament. Ryan won its three games by an average of 33.3 points per contest to claim its third straight state tournament berth.

Leading the way for the Lions is the highest-scoring duo in Class B basketball. Seniors Ben Bohl and Mason Hedberg — both Minot State commits — are the heart and soul of the Region 6 representatives.

Bohl, a high-flying guard with the ability to defend the opposition’s best scorer, averages a tournament-high 24.4 points per game to go along with 9.1 boards per game. Meanwhile, Hedberg is an assassin from deep that averages 20.1 points per game and 8.2 boards per game.

But, with the duo combining for 65 percent of the team’s points per contest, Ryan will be looking to get its supporting cast more involved when it faces No. 5-ranked New Rockford-Sheyenne today at 8:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals.

Guards such as Chinaza Udekwe, Logan Merck and Jaxon Feller have all proved to be capable of giving a scoring boost, and bigs such as Rubensky Lormejuste provide a consistent source of rebounding and interior defense.

“The deeper we can go, the better,” Jeremy Feller said. “Everyone’s game plan is to stop Ben (Bohl) and Mason (Hedberg), so that’s really opened up things for other players. When they get more involved, we play better.”

Region 7:

Beulah

Although the Miners reached last year’s state tournament, this time around is different.

Beulah (19-4) played its postseason last year without star player Chad Morsette Jr. The then-junior forward was sidelined with a torn ACL, as the Miners lost in the opening round of the tournament to eventual state champion Hillsboro-Central Valley and ultimately took fifth place.

Now the 6-foot senior is healthy and ready to lead his team to a deep run this time around. Morsette enters the tournament as Beluah’s workhorse, averaging a team-high 17 points in addition to six boards per game.

“We look to (Morsette) to do a lot of things for us,” Beulah head coach Jeremy Brandt said. “He has a really calming affect, and he’s a confident kid. He had to watch from the bench last year, so having him be able to play this time is a really cool thing.”

Easing the load for Morsette is Jonah Larson. The 6-foot-5 junior forward is a walking double-double, averaging 11.7 points per game and 10 boards per game.

The Miners don’t solely rely on their upperclassmen, though. Freshman guard Trey Brandt has also proven to be a consistent scoring option throughout the season, averaging 10.5 points per game.

In addition to having a number of shooters on the team, Beulah also excels on the defensive end. The Miners allowed an average of just 44.2 points per contest in the regular season.

Beulah will face No. 2-ranked Shiloh Christian today at 1 p.m. in the quarterfinals. Despite being the lower seed, it was actually Beulah who came out on top when the two teams met on Feb. 5, 73-68.

“We really hang our hat on our defense,” Brandt said. “In order to be successful, you have to be able to defend. There are going to be some nerves, but it helps that there is some familiarity (with Shiloh Christian).”

Region 8: Powers Lake

The drought has come to an end for Powers Lake.

The Ranchers (21-4) made history last Thursday in the championship match of the Region 8 tournament, as they outlasted Mandaree in a thrilling 74-72 overtime contest. The win secured the team’s spot in the state tournament, marking its first trip to the big dance in 80 years.

“(Making the tournament) is big,” Powers Lake head coach Jordan Carlson said. “This is a good group of kids that work hard, and it means a lot to the program.”

Powers Lake has one of the better balances of youth and experience, and both underclassmen and upperclassman contribute to the cause.

Senior Aiden Nordloef is sure to be on other teams’ radars. The 6-foot-2 center leads the Ranchers in both scoring and rebounds with 15.3 points and 7.4 boards per game.

Keeping the engine purring is Kyle VanBerkom. The senior guard shares the ball to the tune of 6.7 assists per game and isn’t afraid to let it fly himself. VanBerkom is good for 9.8 points per contest.

Then there’s Noah Fredrickson, a 6-foot sophomore who is plenty capable of producing. Fredrickson is a sharpshooter that averages 13.5 points and hits 3-pointers at a rate of 40.9 percent.

The Rankers begin their long-awaited tournament run with a quarterfinals matchup against No. 3-ranked Richland today at 2:45 p.m.

“Richland is a good team,” Carlson said. “They have good guard play, and they attack the hoop well. We just have to win the battle on the boards and take care of the ball.”

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

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