Part 1: Post Season Recap
Posted 2/23/16 (Tue)
Two weeks ago I told you that there was no better time to be a fan of high school sports in North Dakota. Looking back on the number of absolutely awesome games that we have gotten to see over that timespan I feel confident that statement was, and still is, true. The better news is the stretch isn’t over. Starting yesterday and spanning to next Monday we will be airing 38 games on the BEK family of networks. Let that sink in. 38 GAMES! But before we look ahead we must look back on the week that was.
If you remember from last week the table was set Monday with Barnes County v. Ellendale and Midkota v. LaMoure in the region tournament play-in games. Both matches went in favor of the higher seeds, and the games were never very close. Ellendale brought their stifling defense and LaMoure had a bounce back performance after their loss to Carrington to cinch up their spots in the region tournament.
The championship game featured the high seeded EKM Rebels who hadn’t lost since well before Christmas, and the Carrington Cardinals who had played the most dominant game of the tournament in their win over Oakes. Carrington got off to another great start, but Olivia Anderson heated up at the end of the first quarter to make it a six point game, 13-7. As we have seen many times in Region 3 play, defense became the focus in the second quarter; a quarter where we saw just eight points scored between both teams! Fortunately for EKM they got the majority of the eight and decreased their deficit to four, heading into the locker room trailing 16-12. The Rebels continued to make up ground in the second half and took a 24-22 lead heading to the fourth thanks to a last second shot from Katie Entzi. The fourth quarter went back and forth until the last minute of the game. With 29 second left on the clock Carrington led 34-33 and had possession. They worked the ball down court and found an open Ann Endres who nailed a three to make it a four point game. EKM was able to put two on the board in the final seconds but could not complete the comeback. Final score 37-35, Carrington. In a tightly contested game no one was really able to break lose and take control. Olivia Anderson led all scorers with nine points, and for Carrington Maara Nelson, Ann Endres and Abigail Jarrett all contributed with seven. It was the only “upset” in the tournament, and allows Carrington to wear the one seed out of District 5 in the Region tournament. Olivia Anderson was named Senior athlete of the year, and Coach Andy Braaten and Megan Cleveland both were named coaches of the year in District 5.
Championship Monday was followed on Tuesday by our final regular season game of the year between Richland and Sargent Central. We saw the Cadets struggle against a stacked MNS Bulldogs team back in early January, and were getting our first look at the Richland boys since we saw many of them on the football field en route to a state championship. It was parent’s night in Forman, and the final regular season game for the Cadets who were still looking for their first region win. The streaky Colts had had more success throughout the year and were trying to improve their seeding and obtain some more momentum heading into super-region tournament play. The Colts may have been expecting an easy W, but the Cadets came out swinging and did absolutely everything they could to find a win. Drew Wittich and Matt Colemer were outstanding. Wittich finished with a double-double and Colemer was two boards away from having one himself. Richland led 27-23 at halftime, and increased their lead to 46-38 by the way of some outstanding 3-point shooting from Alec Heesch. Despite a late push from the Cadets, they just couldn’t overcome the 3-point assault from the Colts who would go on to win 57-51.
And then it was hockey time. As a former player and avid fan I had been awaiting the WDA region tournament with an incredible amount of excitement. We got to Minot on the first day of games, but didn’t start broadcasting until the second day. Similar to the D. 5 GBB tournament the entire first day went chalk, as did the second. Day two saw Minot beat a gritty Mandan team 5-0 and Bismarck High dismantle Century for the first two periods and win 6-2. In the loser out games Dickinson and Jamestown both escaped victorious to keep their season alive. Which brings us to the final day of the tournament. Dickinson and Mandan faced off first with a berth to the state tournament on the line. Mandan was the higher seed, but you would have never known by watching the game. Dickinson came out of the shoot with a sense of vengeance . The Midgets led 1-0 and controlled most of the first period, but on a fast break the Braves found the back of the net to tie the game at one. The game was tight for the final two frames, but Mandan could never gain a lead. Mike McChesney and Jerzy Martin fueled their team on route to a 4-2 win that placed them in the state tournament for the first time since 2000. The second state play-in game was between Century and Jamestown. Century had a strong third period in their loss to Bismarck and carried over the energy from that period in to the game versus the Jays. The Patriots led 1-0 after one, 3-1 after two and closed out the W in the third by a final score of 5-2.
The championship game, as many projected, came down to the 1st and 2nd seeds, Minot and Bismarck. The past two state champions had met twice in the regular season and both times the Magicians had gotten wins. Having watched each team play twice in the tournament, my take away was that Bismarck was the faster team, but that Minot was the most well rounded team of all the clubs in the west. But Saturday when the puck dropped with the region title on the line, speed was the difference. The Demons came out absolutely flying, and jumped on Minot early. The Magicians were struggling to even get the puck out of their zone, and you could sense the first goal coming when Jonny Whitzke put the Demons on the board. The lead stayed at 1-0 after one period thanks to some great goaltending from Kross Braaten who was tested early and often. Minot seemed to settle in late in the period, but to start the second Bismarck continued their early dominance scoring less than three minutes in. They’d add another late in the period , but Minot would answer with their first to make it 3-1. Unfortunately for the hosting team, any good vibes they hoped to carry over into the third were extinguished by TJ and Cullen Irey who combined for a goal just 22 seconds in to the third. Bismarck would go onto win the game 5-1. It was a bad loss for Minot, but one they are glad to have out of their system as they head to states as the two seed from the west. The impressive showing from Bismarck just goes to show their potential, as both they and Minot will try for their second state tournament in the last three years.