Lions set sights
All successful sports programs share one common component.
In sports, it’s simply referred to as the fundamentals.
Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock wasn’t the heavy favorite to win this year’s Region 3 boys basketball tournament. There really wasn’t one. But somehow one of the most successful programs in the history of Class B boys basketball — the Lions — did.
When the playing field is as level as it was the little things mattered, and the Lions were able to top Strasburg-Zeeland 66-64 in overtime, clinching their third region crown in four years last Thursday at the Jamestown Civic Center.
“We always think that we’ve got a shot, but we knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Linton-HMB coach Dan Carr said. “Just the fact that we believed our region was really more balanced that it’s ever been.
“It’s just the team that happens to make a couple of plays at the right time to get by, and that’s what it takes sometimes,” Carr added. “Of course, we always hope that it’s us who are making those plays.”
This year’s pride will be the 20th time Linton has been represented at the state Class B boys basketball tournament, which is more than any other Class B school. They’ll be facing Cavalier in the quarterfinals at 2:45 p.m. at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
It’ll mark the 11th time Carr has guided the Lions to the state tournament in his 32 years at the helm, winning state championships in 1984, 1985 and 2009. Carr and the Lions have piled up 627 victories since the veteran coach took over the program in 1981.
Carr has 663 total career wins.
“It’s the determination of the kids. Knowing that they have a tradition to uphold and they like to go after it,” Carr said. “They also have always had good support from their families, and that’s really important in situations like this.”
After winning it all in 2009, the Lions have finished seventh at state in their previous two appearances. But not getting past the first day in 2011 and 2012 isn’t something the team has concerned itself with.
“We’ve never really thought about it,” Carr said. “You go there and you try to play your best, and hopefully you do play your best and whatever happens, happens.
“You try to determine your own destiny by playing well.”
It all starts Thursday, against a Cavalier team coach Carr spoke highly of. The back-to-back champion of Region 2 Tornadoes (23-1) placed eighth at the state tournament last March.
“Basketball coaches would say they’re long. They’ve got four guys who are 6-foot-3, 6-2 that they start,” Carr said of Cavalier. “They put on a lot of pressure, run the floor really well and can rebound. They’re the best offensive rebounding team I’ve seen, so the keys for us will be how we’re able to counter those things.”
The Lions (20-4) will be looking for a big weekend out of seniors Brook Flyberg and Andrew Small, as well as juniors Jonathon Purintun and Ryan Schneider. Small, a 5-11 guard, hit the game-winning jumper in overtime against Strasburg-Zeeland with 1.5 seconds left on the clock to help the Lions lift the Region 3 crown.
Small averaged 16.3 points and connected on 8-of-15 3-pointers during the tournament. Purintun averaged 15.3 points, while Schneider tallied 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds during the Lions’ three days in Jamestown.
“We’ll need to handle the ball against (Cavalier’s) press, rebound, and we’ll have to slow them down in the full court to take away their break,” Carr said. “If we can do those things we can be successful, but we have to do those things.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org