Corey's Corner 2/8

Posted 2/08/17 (Wed)

               The end of the regular season is always special. The games start to pick up some added meaning and the value of each win starts to become clearer. Obviously every W counts the same in the standings, but it really feels like it means more when you know that win gives you in regards to the league standings. Or sometimes the win doesn’t really matter in the standings, but has a great deal of importance anyway because of its ability to generate a push towards the postseason. We had both of those types of games this past week on BEK.

               We start out with the former, as the Eastern Dakota Conference tournament starts to take a clear shape for both the boys and the girls. The Mustangs of West Fargo Sheyenne looked to continue their surge amongst the EDC ranks with a trip to the City of Bridges to take on the Hi-Liners. Valley City, meanwhile, with a young team was trying to take advantage of the opportunity to create some confidence headed into the final stretch. But in the first half, there wasn’t much advantage to be had. The Mustangs scored the first five points of the game, and started out great from deep. That’s the MO of this WF Sheyenne squad. When they’ve got their three point shot, they are tough to beat. But the Hi-Liners didn’t quit. They got it evened up at 15 a piece behind the efforts of Lexi Ondracek, who knocked down the knotting shot. Then McKenna Taylor took over with back-to-back makes. Kierra Freih was there at every turn though for the Mustangs, and this felt like a one on one game for a while. The Mustangs continued to shoot from the outside, but the Hi-Liners forced their way to the foul line with a great deal of regularity. Their 14 free throw attempts balanced out the outside shot and it was 34-34 at half.

               Then the Mustangs came out galloping. Much like the 1st, they came out with the first  couple makes, and would get the lead to double digits at 56-46. The point guard Maggie Manson shouldered a ton of the load here in the 2nd, and finished with 26. Kierra Freih continued her good day, getting up to 18. Yasmina Dokara and Katelyn Ask also finished in double-digits. The Sheyenne offense operated from two and from three, and overwhelmed the VC defense. So the Mustangs continued their run to make it right into the heart of the Eastern Dakota Conference standings with the conference tournament right around the corner.

               So let’s shift over to the boys game, where the Mustangs began to canter much earlier. An early 7-0 run set the tenor, and the Mustangs rode that early push to a 43-29 halftime lead. Chase Erickson shot the lights out from the field to the tune of 13 1st half points. Dawson Anderson, Hayden Reynods, Carter Bonnema, and Isaac Stormon were also pacing the Mustang attack. The Hi-Liners got a great early push from Levi Nix who hit three threes in the 1st half, and Nate Rodriguez also got into double digits in the first half. But West Fargo Sheyenne was even better in the second half and, they earned the doubleheader sweep. They too got to pick up the conference win, and put themselves in contention for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Dakota Conference.

               Now, let’s take a trip all the way out West for some Class B basketball. The Shiloh Christian Skyhawks leave the comforts of the capital and head to Watford City to take on the Wolves. And we start out with the boys game in this one, because the girls was going to be a special matchup. And as it turns out, the opening act was pretty good too. Shiloh is one of the top ranked teams in the state, but that didn’t stop Watford City from giving them everything they could handle. Cole McGorman was outstanding for Watford City, finishing with 16 points. Brock Haugeberg wrapped up with 9 (including a big time buzzer beater), and Jarek Hogue continued his strong season with another 12.

              But this game would be decided by the big guys. Macauley Young for Shiloh wrapped up with 20 points and 16 rebounds, proving to be an unstoppable force. The Wolves did an outstanding job of slowing down one of the best athletes in Class B in Bartholmew Ogbu, but he got loose in the second half to the tune of a dozen. Jonas Mitzel proved to be the sparkplug, providing an early three straight baskets and continuing to keep Shiloh afloat while the Wolves were in a groove. It did eventually come down to Young though, as he had back-to-back makes to make it 54-47 in the final stages of the ball game. Those makes would prove to be decisive, as the Wolves couldn’t close the two possession gap. Shiloh held on for the victory, generating some buzz headed into the postseason. With two young teams, I don’t think either will be feeling bad after the result of this one.

              Then it was time for the girls game. A state championship rematch from a year ago, it was a Clash of the Titans from the Roughrider Activities Center in Watford City. The top two teams from a year ago still rank amongst North Dakota’s elite, and that showed immediately in this one. The issue early on for Watford City was turnovers. Coach Zenz told us before the game that his team was susceptible to turning the ball over in bunches. That happened to open up the ballgame, but the Wolves defense did a good job of keeping things incredibly close. And much like the boys game: this thing would be decided in the post. Paige Murray had four makes in the 1st quarter alone. But Mackenzie Sparby was there to answer in the key at each key moment, including a buzzer beater to end the 1st quarter. In the 2nd quarter it was Avery Sundeen who got going for the Wolves, giving Watford City their largest lead of the day at 33-25. Amber Stevahn was the calming influence for Shiloh, but another buzzer beater by Sparby gave the hometown team the 35-29 lead headed into the locker room.

              As the 3rd quarter rolled around, the Skyhawks started to slowly claw their way back. Brittan Grubb continued a good effort for Shiloh, and the players who were good in the 1st half continued to shape this thing down the stretch. It was Sparby who shined brightest, finishing with a monstrous 26 points. The 4th quarter didn’t start well for the Wolves, as they would bookend this game with the turnover bug. But just like they did in the 1st, they eventually corralled it in the 4th and final. Still, Shiloh got it to a 50-48 game late in the proceedings. A little bit later Avery Sundeen went to the line with a chance to seal the game. She would miss the FT to make it a two-possession lead. But the rebound would find its way back to her. And the second time was the charm. Sundeen planted the dagger and the Wolves would get their revenge on the team that beat them in the Championship Game last year 59-54. This game wrapped up the regular season for both teams, so Watford City gets the confidence edge heading into District play. But you get the feeling the Skyhawks may get a chance for some revenge later on this season…

               Finally, we come back to the hometown of the Skyhawks to wrap up this edition of Corey’s Corner as we take a look at a matchup between the Bismarck Demons and Minot. First, the girls’ game as the Demons looked to make their bid for a top four seed in the WDA tournament with just a few games left in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Majettes looked to continue to improve with an incredibly young team.

               Coral Gillette forced a pair of turnovers for Bismarck early on, and that set the tempo for the rest of the game. She scored the first five, and the rest of the Demons offense wasn’t too far behind. A 32-11 halftime margin was expanded upon as the Demons got the win in the WDA, giving chase to a pair of teams very close to them in the standings: the Braves and Saints. Cara Haussler lead the way with 12 points, Gillette finished with eight, Lexi Kerzman was outstanding underneath, and Emma Steckler came into the game and put up a seven spot en route to the W.

               The boys’ game was the total opposite. The Magicians were the favorite in game 2, seeing as they hadn’t lost in over a calendar year until they took on the Dickinson Midgets. Now, they were trying to make sure another loss didn’t come in Bismarck. And this game was tight throughout. Minot started out on the right foot getting the first five points out of the game from Justin Engg. The 6’5” senior is an elite force in North Dakota basketball. Then Joe Jahner got going for Bismarck, and the two of them were going at it on the scoreboard. Minot got up two possessions, but then Bismarck answered again with an NBA range three from Ian Schafer. Then a timeout, and a big spark for the Magi. A 10-1 run started by a floater from Trevor Banks and finished by a quartet of makes from Justin Engg. That big run would serve as the difference at the half as the Magi lead 34-27.

               Then then it was Bismarck’s turn to get hot. They came like a Demon out of nowhere for the start of half number 2, rattling off a 7-1 tear lead by Ian Schafer and Joe Jahner from the outside. Solomon Garter was also outstanding in the interior, and him taking on Brett Lunde in the key was one of the defining matchups in the game. In the later stages of the game, the Magi broke out their final trick. A 20-10 run following the Bismarck surge would prove to be the gut punch. Justin Engg delivered again en route to a 24 point finish, and KyJuan Johnson did the same on the way to 16. Peyton Lamoureux got going from outside (11pts) and when he does that this Minot team is tough to beat. Lofton Klabunde got his first points of the game on a 3 point play, then buried one from outside that put it out of reach for Bismarck. So the Magi hold on to their WDA lead and look to finish out the season and earn the #1 seed in the postseason.