Looking for momentum; Blue Jays host Hi-Liners tonight
The Jamestown High School boys basketball team has a real opportunity to grow in its next five games.
The next five games are certainly winnable. Jamestown hosts Valley City today and goes to Turtle Mountain and Devils Lake on Jan. 3 and 7, respectively. It hosts Dickinson on Jan. 10 and Williston the next day.
Those five opponents are a combined 2-14 and wins would give the Blue Jays a big boost going into the middle of another tough West Region slate. Wins against Bismarck High, Century, St. Mary’s and Minot will take a superb effort. They appear to be the early favorites to qualify for state out of the west.
But even wins in the next five games can’t be taken for granted, something which will certainly be emphasized by coach Kelley Kessler.
Williston appears to be the biggest hurdle of the five, as teams have had a hard time holding down 6-foot-5 center Jayden Ferguson, who is averaging 23 points and seven rebounds per game despite being 0-4.
Dickinson is always competitive and Turtle Mountain returned every player from its roster last season. Devils Lake has some very capable players as well, as it lost by just six points to a very good West Fargo team.
The Valley City boys basketball team was devastated by graduation and this year’s team doesn’t have a single senior on it. Still, nothing can be taken for granted. I wouldn’t underestimate a group of young, fresh-faced athletes. Sometimes, they can be the hungriest.
There’s no doubting how fun this year’s Jamestown boys team is to watch, though. They get up and down the floor, and they seem to pass the ball pretty well. All five starters have led or tied for the lead in scoring already. Balance is clearly a strength.
Defense has been a problem, though. Jamestown hasn’t held a team under 70 points. Stopping dribble penetration in the halfcourt has been an issue, which has contributed to opponents’ high shooting percentage. The Blue Jays have yet to hold a team under 40 percent.
But there has been some good there as well. Full-court pressure has gotten some easy baskets, which has keyed game-changing runs. Even in a 30-point loss to second-ranked Fargo Davies, Jamestown’s defense was still aggressive, attacking at halfcourt and getting easy layups.
The next five games will tell us a lot about this year’s team.
The Jamestown girls (1-2) have a similar chance, but those same opponents have a bit better resumes, led by Turtle Mountain (3-0) and Valley City (2-1). The five opponents are a combined 7-11.
Lack of depth has hurt the Blue Jays this season, but their talent and work ethic has kept every game close. Jamestown has a win over Mandan to speak of, but fell behind early and had to play catch-up in losses to Fargo Davies and Minot. The rallies almost worked and they even had a lead against Minot in the second half.
Foul trouble has been an issue for the Blue Jays, which circles around to the subject of depth again. This is a team that thrives on pressure defense. But if that means key players will have to sit most of the first half in foul trouble, then something will have to change along the way.
A tough game comes today against Valley City, which brought back a good portion of last year’s team that beat Jamestown in a close battle. Expect another close one today.
Turtle Mountain could be the most difficult of the five. The Bravettes handled Bismarck St. Mary’s and Dickinson pretty easily and also have an impressive one-point win over Minot.
The Blue Jays have gotten strong performances out of senior center Paige Peterson, who is averaging 21 points per game. She has two double-doubles in three games and was just two rebounds shy of a third against Minot.
Jamestown resumes its season at home today, looking for the same kind of doubleheader magic that Valley City captured last season. After the Hi-Liner girls knocked off the state-ranked Blue Jays, the boys went on to beat the Blue Jays by more than 30 points.
Jamestown needs to grab ahold of momentum like that and bottle it.
Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or firstname.lastname@example.org