Minot-area talent represents Class B in Lions All-Star series

Minot-area talent represents Class B in Lions All-Star series

Alex Eisen/MDN Former Bishop Ryan guard Ben Bohl rises up for a shot in a Class B boys basketball game played this past season. Bohl and teammate Mason Hedberg will represent the Class B boys in the annual North Dakota Lions All-Star basketball series being held the next two days.

The annual North Dakota Lions All-Star basketball series always comes with a David versus Goliath type of atmosphere.

The question each year remains the same: Can the Class B underdogs pull off the upset and take down mighty Class A?

Minot-area athletes are embracing that challenge.

The best basketball talent from around the region will be representing Class B over the next two days in the Lions All-Star series.

The first game will be played this evening at Bismarck Legacy with the second game on Tuesday at West Fargo High School.

Alex Eisen/MDN Rugby's Anni Stier (25) looks for a pass in a Region 6 Tournament game this past season. Stier is joined by high school teammates Karsyn Hager and Maria Blessum, along with head coach Jen Brossart, to compete with the Class B girls in the annual North Dakota Lions All-Star basketball series being held the next two days.

The girls tip at 6 p.m. with the boys to follow at 8 p.m. both nights.

Here is a look at both Class B rosters:

Boys: Bohl, Hedberg team up once again

The former Bishop Ryan and soon-to-be Minot State tandem can’t be separated. Mr. Basketball finalist Ben Bohl and Second Team All-State sharpshooter Mason Hedberg headline an experienced Class B backcourt with a lot of chemistry.

“It’s going to be a fun time,” Bohl said. “We played with each other our whole lives, so one last game at the high school level means a lot to me.”

Joining Bohl and Hedberg are familiar foes Cadyn Schwabe and Hayden Overby from Thompson. The Tommies upended Ryan in the semifinals of the state tournament this past season, 68-65 in overtime.

Rivals turned into teammates. That’s what the All-Star series is all about.

“I think we have pretty good chemistry already,” Hedberg said. “There is no one on the team that I dislike playing with… We all know that we can score. So, if we just move the ball, we will be fine offensively.”

Add in 6-foot-9 center Macauley Young protecting the paint and Class B undoubtedly has the size to match up with their Class A counterparts. But, is that enough?

“A lot of people don’t expect us to win,” Hedberg said. “So, we are going to try and use that to our advantage. Maybe catch them off guard. At the same time, we know we are capable of beating them.”

A lot of attention will be focussed on slowing down 2019 North Dakota Mr. Basketball Mason Walters from Jamestown.

The 6-foot-8 forward, who will be joining his hometown University of Jamestown, led Jamestown High School to a perfect 27-0 season and its seventh Class A state championship this past year.

“(Walters) is very tough to defend,” Bohl said. “He can face up and he is really good with his back to the basket. A strong dude.”

High-flying Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood standout Isaac Undlin, who is committed to play football at Minnesota State Moorhead, and Stanley’s Seth Hetzel also made the Class B roster.

Girls: Trio of Rugby Panthers aim to shock the state once again

After stunning top-seeded Kidder County in the first round and then No. 5 Hettinger-Scranton in the semifinals, the Rugby Panthers girls basketball team found themselves one win away from capturing the program’s first-ever state title.

Fellow unseeded Kindred had other ideas and narrowly nipped Rugby, 49-47, in the championship game.

The strong state showing at least helped the Panthers land three players on the Class B All-Star squad — Anni Stier, Karsyn Hager and Maria Blessum — which is being coached by Rugby’s own Jen Brossart.

“We get 12 girls from all over the state and put them together, and they are looking pretty good,” Brossart said. “Shaking off a little bit of rust, but a lot of talented girls on the floor.”

Along with her three Rugby players, Brossart highlighted Amanda Allen of Medina-Pingree-Buchanan, Amanda Roller of Oak Grove and McKenzie Johnson of Carrington as possible key contributors.

“It’s been really fun meeting all these new girls who are top players in the state,” said Hager, who is committed to play basketball at Bismarck State. “We are bonding really well. It was rough right away with everyone’s different style of play, but now it’s coming together. We look a lot better than what we did the first day.”

The team’s speed and quickness will have to compensate for a lack of height. As such, Brossart hopes a fast defense can stifle Class A’s high-powered offense with the likes of Mandan’s Megan Zander and Century’s Lilly Keplin.

“I’m really excited to play against Zander and Keplin because they are freak athletes who are really good,” said Blessum, who will carry all her high school pole vaulting state titles into North Dakota State this fall. “It’s going to be tough, but it will be fun.”

With only four practices, there isn’t a lot of time to talk strategy. Being flexible and learning on the go is crucial.

“They are willing to accept new things,” Brossart said. “Obviously, us coaches are bringing in stuff from our own handbook and they have been really patient and soaking it all in. I think that’s a testament to their own coaching staffs from where they come for bringing up good ball players.”

But, the Class B label still makes them the underdogs.

“I think everyone thinks that always because we are Class B and we are from smaller towns,” said Stier, who plans to run track and play basketball at the University of Jamestown. “Yes, they have a height advantage. But, I think we are quick, will have a really good defense and have a lot of good shooters. It should be interesting.”

Anything is possible. David did beat Goliath.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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