Corey's Corner 7/13

Posted 7/13/16 (Wed)

                Not every All-Star is created equal. Sometimes an all-star is merely the best of an average group. That was not the case this past weekend in North Dakota. We got to see some of the best players in the state’s history on both the hardwood and the gridiron. When you have multiple record-holders in action at the same time, you know you’re seeing something special. We got that in the Shrine Bowl and the Lions All-Star Basketball Series.

                We’ll start it out with the sport that starts first: football. The 43rd annual Shrine Bowl featured some special talent at the FargoDome. And amongst all that skill, QB Jake Preston took center stage in the 11-man game. He lead the East team on a strong opening drive, aided greatly by a nice catch by Ryan Michels that really put his team in the driver seat. Appropriately, Preston would get the first points in the game. The West team would then go ahead and put up nine unanswered to take the 9-7 lead. Re-enter Preston. With time winding down in the first half, the East looked beyond comfortable in a hurry-up offense and they cashed in on a ten play drive for the score. Steady offense was no problem for the East in this one, as their rushing attack of Preston, Tanner Mathern, Jake Worms, and Victor Gronvold were brutally effective, lowering their shoulders and fighting for extra yards. 14-9 at the half.

                The turnover bug plagued both teams in the second half. Great offensive momentum for both sides was halted as the ball found the other team. Fumbles for the East, and interceptions for the West. Missed opportunities hurt the West as well. The battle between Jaret Lee and Ethan Zetocha often went the way of the East DB (was a fun matchup though), and neither Casey Walcker nor Reese Schell could really get into a rhythm. But you don’t need rhythm to make one play, and so Walcker connected with Cory Alt on a huge play that made it a one-possession game again. Alt got behind the defense, and his former teammate at Beulah dropped a dime. Alt took care of the rest. That was Alt’s only catch of the day, and he made it count. That would also be the only score of the second half. The ground n’ pound attack of the East was made for the 4th quarter with a lead, killing clock with lethal effectiveness. They had some big play opportunities as well, but could never hook up with Devin Klieman who had wide open spaces a few times in this one. Despite that, and the turnovers, slow and steady won this race and so for the first time in a while, the boys from the East got the W in 11-man. For a look back at the 9-man game, head over to Brian’s Monday Morning Rewind.

                But the Shriners weren’t the only show in town. The Lions Club was also looking to raise some money and put on a show, and that’s exactly what we got at the Fargo Civic Memorial Auditorium. Two games were on the docket, showcasing the Class A All-Stats and the Class B All-Stars. Both the boys and girls took the floor, and dazzled the crowd. It started with the girls’ game, and this wasn’t your typical girls’ basketball game. The Class A Girls All-Stars and the Class B Girls All-Stars were determined to make the crowds’ necks hurt from looking back-and-forth. The tempo was absolutely unreal, and it made for a really fun game to broadcast. If you want the breakdown on this one, check out Brian’s Monday Morning Rewind. The exact same speed came with the boys’ game. There were some great athletes, and that showed as early as warm-ups. A dunk contest amongst teammates put on a show in Fargo. And then there was the game itself.

                The two teams couldn’t be more different. The Class B Boys were looking to capitalize on their speed and shooting. Class A wanted to use their superior size to force it down low and dominate the paint. And from the word go, it was the Space N’ Pace of the small town stars that set the tempo of the game. Brody Neiuwsma lead the guards with 17, Landyn Keplin brought the fans to their feet with his incredible handles, Grady Bresnahan pushed the pace, and Jason Feather is Mr.Basketball for a reason. Plus, the flexibility of this team allowed the big guys to play like guards. Hunter Pinke has always had that skillset, and he showed it again throughout the game. But the real story of this one was Drake-Anamoose big man Cordel Volson. The future NDSU o-lineman opened up his day with a three ball, and then single-handedly ran the post the rest of the game. He made a second home there to the tune of a 20 point game. Also he had double digit rebounds and eight blocks. This stat stuffing performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that it was all-stars on the other side too. The new secret weapon had been unleashed.

                Notice these are all Class B names. That’s because the first boys’ game in the Lions All Star Basketball Series was a Class B showcase. They got up big quickly and never really looked back. An 11 point halftime lead evolved into an 18 point victory. Creighton Pfau was great for Class A with 13, Braedan Hanson had 10. But A head coach Dean Winezewski would leave Fargo knowing his guys can play much better than they did in the opener, and he would remind his guys of that on the way back to the state capitol.

                Sure enough, game two was a totally different story. After another thriller of a girls game (again, if you want info on those two amazing contests, check out Brian’s Monday Morning Rewind) the boys took the floor at the Bismarck Event Center. And the difference was immediately noticeable. The Class A Boys came out laser focused, and angry. The defensive intensity to start the game was stifling the Class B athletes. The big city boys also returned to an inside out philosophy, starting their offense down low. Braedan Hanson and Brayden Thomas lead a well-balanced scoring attack. The ball movement was beautifully choreographed, and it was just some bad luck that kept the Class B boys close in that first half. Well…bad luck and Grady Bresnahan. The PG out of Central Cass was electric in the first half, racking up a quick 12 points with some ferocious moves to the basket and some sweet dribbling on the way in. So Class A was up 5 at the half. Then, coach Rick Smith and Class B got back on the same page.

                 The initial surge in defensive focus by the team looking for a series split initially got Class B out of their rhythym. But come the second half, they settled back in with a multi-pronged attack of their own. Connor Entzi provided valuable points, as well as some defense of his own. The all-time leader at Edgeley-KM in nearly every statistical category, the best player in school history made the colors proud one last time. Zac Martin and Drew Thielges managed to generate some offense as well, after being kept off the scorecard in Game 1. Cordel Volson got going late. But the second half for Class B revolved around Brody Neiuwsma. Quiet in the first half, he’d finish the game with 14. One of the best players in Strasburg-Zeeland history kept Class B right there through the final buzzer.

                But right on the doorstep is as close as they would get. After trailing the entire first half, B would get the lead at times during the second stanza, but A would get it right back. Ahmed Aden was determined to make his mark in the Lions’ game, and he notched a couple 3s. Hanson and Thomas were good again. Noah Wanzek had a valuable seven points. But the story here was Connor Hellebust. The ex-Bismarck Demon was a one man wrecking crew, finish the game with 17 and many of those coming late. Without his contributions in the final few minutes, Class B would’ve gotten the sweep. Instead, his tremendous effort made it so all Class A had to do was hit their free throws to win. Andrew Holen did that. A couple misses later did give Class B a final heave, but it was never close. So the Class A all-stars got the win, and a 1-1 record in this year’s Lions All-Star Basketball Series. The games surpassed every expectation of what we and the fans could hope for, as some of the best athletes ever in the state of North Dakota took the floor and put on a show.