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Lakers adjust to new reality in Class A basketball

BURLINGTON – Like many teams across North Dakota, the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers girls’ basketball team find themselves adjusting to the reality that is three-class basketball.

“It’s going to be a hard year, just because of the class change. It’s really hard to really see how you’re going to match up [with teams],” said Des Lacs-Burlington girls’ basketball head coach Tracy Bonn.

The Lakers will compete in Region 3, which includes Bottineau, Des Lacs-Burlington, Dunseith, Nedrose, New Town, Rugby, South Prairie-Max, Stanley and Turtle Mountain Community. In Class A, none of the regions are subdivided into districts.

“Every year, we set our eyes on a state tournament,” said Bonn. “Some years, you know, people might think you’re nuts and think that that’s unachievable. It’s never unachievable when we start a season.”

The Lakers welcome back a number of experienced varsity players this year, having only lost two seniors from last year’s squad that finished as district runners-up before falling in the first round of Regionals to Bottineau.

Providing veteran leadership for Des Lacs-Burlington are seniors Paige Berard (5’11“), Katelynn Berg (5’7”) and Zannah Bjerklie (5’10”), and that height looked like an early strength for the Lakers.

“We are very tall,” said Bonn. “Well, we were tall for Class B. We are not as tall for Class A. But we have a lot of athleticism on our team. Our 5’7” and 5’8“s can play that guard/forward/center role. They’re just very athletic, so that’s going to help us out a bit.”

Juniors returning that saw significant playing time last year are Ava Brown and Kaylee Werner.

Offensively, the Lakers may be pushed more to the outside then they are used to on account of moving up to Class A, but it also may free them up to play a little quicker, with quick outlets up and down the court.

“Offensively in the half court, we run a little bit of everything. We’ve got some sets, and we have a five out-motion type offense that I like to go to,” said Bonn.

With the new free throw rules, the Lakers will also need to be more disciplined during games, as they have traditionally been a very aggressive team defensively, according to Bonn.

Nonetheless, the Lakers feel like they are poised to compete for a Region title.

The Lakers open the season when they travel to Beulah tonight, at 7 p.m., before hosting Killdeer on Friday night. Tip-off is at 7:15.

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