Strong field: No. 9 Kidder County set for Stutsman County TournamentIt took some time for the Kidder County boys’ basketball team to crack the Class B poll, but it didn’t take long for coach Paul Olson to realize the potential of the now No. 9-ranked Pirates.
It took some time for the Kidder County boys’ basketball team to crack the Class B poll, but it didn’t take long for coach Paul Olson to realize the potential of the now No. 9-ranked Pirates.
“Our very first game of the year we played Turtle Lake and Turtle Lake has a really nice team,” said Olson, who is in his sixth year at Kidder County. “They were bigger than we were and across the board they were probably a little quicker than we were. … Right then when you’re outsized right out of the blocks and you can compete, it’s a good feeling.”
The Pirates were not only able to compete but they were able to pick up a 56-51 victory to ignite a five-game winning streak and earn their spot in the poll for the first time earlier this week.
“It feels good,” Olson said of Kidder County’s most recent ranking. “It’s not our main objective but it feels good to get in there. We’ve been playing pretty decent basketball. (We’re) just trying to improve with every game.”
Kidder County suffered its first setback of the season when top-ranked Linton defeated the Pirates 73-65 in overtime Tuesday night, but the Pirates will have the opportunity to get back on track in the Stutsman County Invitational, which begins today at the Jamestown Civic Center.
“It took me a few years to get into that tournament,” said Olson. “It’s a fun tournament, it’s ran well and also our regional tournament is played their. It’s our only opportunity to get on that floor, so that’s important to us.”
The Pirates finished third last season after losing in the semifinals to eventual tournament champion Central Prairie 55-51. Kidder County then followed up with a win over Edgeley-Kulm in the third-place game.
This year, Kidder County will open against a familiar opponent in Midkota at 6 p.m. The Pirates began their Stutsman run last season with a 63-31 win over Midkota. The field of eight teams will be the same this year and the competition will no doubt be just as fierce.
The No. 5-ranked Carrington Cardinals have received the top seed. Also returning are the defending champs Central Prairie, which opens the tournament against LaMoure at 7:30 p.m.
“The better the competition, the better the team gets,” Olson said. “It doesn’t help to beat people by 50 points because you don’t get any better. Win or lose in that tournament, it’s not an earth-shaking thing. If you don’t win a ball game there it’s not going to kick you out of the district tournament or something, it’s just good competition and that’s how the team gets better.”
The Pirates returned four starters from last season, one of which being two-time All-State guard Adam Randall. The 6-foot-4 senior has been an all-around player for the Pirates over the years. Last season he averaged 26.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.8 steals per game as he helped lead Kidder County to a 17-8 record and a fourth-place finish at the region tournament.
“I would say the biggest thing (Randall brings) is leadership on the floor,” said Olson. “He’s one of those guys when you’re open he’s going to give you the ball. He’ll set a screen for you and all that kind of stuff. He’s very well-rounded and he makes everyone else around him better.”
Randall’s surrounding cast has also played its part in the Pirates’ quick start to the season.
“My point guard Wes Nicholson has been playing really well these last few games,” Olson said. “He’s been in double digits, which is good. He’s been taking good care of the ball and he’s been making good decisions.”
Olson went on to add forward Jake Miller and big-man Mike Kalianoff have also been making positive strides throughout the season, providing the team with the depth needed to make a run come tournament time.
Despite the early success for the Pirates, however, Olson said the team is still focused in the task at hand, and that task doesn’t involve state rankings, rather a successful run in the region tournament.
“I’ve got a pretty nice group of kids,” Olson said. “They understand we’ve got a long ways to go to get to where we want to get.”
Sun sports writer David Griswold can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at email@example.com