Conquering the courtThe varsity basketball programs at Kidder County High School recently wrapped up a 2009-10 season that will be remembered and retold for decades to come.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
The varsity basketball programs at Kidder County High School recently wrapped up a 2009-10 season that will be remembered and retold for decades to come.
But after logging a combined 54 games en route to a pair of Region 3 championship trophies, there’s still one last game left to be played.
The state’s Mr. Basketball vs. the state’s Miss Basketball.
“We just might have to do that now,” Kidder County’s Adam Randall said, while clutching his Mr. Basketball award on the floor of the Minot State University Dome last Saturday night. “It would be a good match.”
Randall was the second Kidder County athlete this month to be honored with the state’s highest individual high school basketball award, after leading the Pirates (20-7) to a fourth-place finish at the state Class B boys’ tournament in Minot last week.
Randall’s senior classmate, Eli Benz, was selected as the state’s Miss Basketball a week earlier in Bismarck. Benz and the Lady Pirates (24-3) followed up their 2008-09 state championship run with a seventh-place finish at state on March 6 in Minot.
Benz recalled that the last time she and Randall were on the same court together with the clock running the two were on traveling teams as fifth graders. Now the reigning top boys’ and girls’ basketball players in the state, Benz also agreed that it might be time to tie up the laces and find out just who’s the best with a friendly game of one-on-one.
The exceptionally polite Benz, however, admitted the pick-up game would probably be an uphill battle.
“Adam would win,” Benz laughed. “We’re classmates and good friends. We’ve gone to the same church together since we were little.
“There isn’t anyone more deserving than him. He’s very dedicated and he’s a great player.”
Randall and Benz are the first Class B classmates to be named Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball in the same season. The only other time such a feat was accomplished was back in 2003, when Fargo North classmates Tyler Koenig and Carissa Jahner took home both awards in the Class A ranks.
“That’s something that truly doesn’t happen everyday,” Kidder County girls’ basketball co-coach Dan Welder said. “Those two athletes have really put their time in and it’s nice to see them get recognized in that way.”
“It’s almost hard to imagine,” Kidder County boys’ basketball coach Paul Olson added, “coming out of a community of about 900 people.”
The only other Class B school in the state to boast both a Mr. Basketball and a Miss Basketball award winner is Divide County. The Maroons’ Rob Stefonowicz won Mr. Basketball in 1990, while Brenna Stefonowicz captured Miss Basketball in 1994.
“That says a lot for our community, with how small we are and to get both,” Benz said. “It goes to show how good our basketball programs are.”
Since Benz was a freshman, the Lady Pirates have competed in all four Region 3 championship games — winning three of them — and as a junior Benz hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the team’s first state Class B title in Grand Forks a season ago. Benz was named the MVP of that tournament.
Benz racked up averages of 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.8 steals per game for Kidder County this season (first team all-state and Region 3 Senior Athlete of the Year), and finished with career totals of 1,382 points, 661 rebounds, 298 assists, 191 steals and 126 blocks.
“(Eli) came to practice everyday wanting to get better, and whatever we wanted her to do she did,” Welder said. “She had one of the best attitudes on the team and was a total team player. It’s rare to find someone who wants to work that hard and it definitely paid off for her.”
“It’s such an honor,” Benz said. “The girls I had around me were so good and deserve some of the credit. I wasn’t expecting it.”
Randall helped lead the Pirates to a total of 73 wins over the past four seasons and the team’s first Region 3 championship this season since 1991. Randall was named all-state for the third straight year — his second selection to the first team — earlier this week, after averaging 26.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game (Region 3 Senior Athlete of the Year).
“With the effort and time he put into the game, I can’t say I was surprised,” Olson said. “He’s a super nice kid and has been a good role model for the younger kids.”
Randall’s career numbers total 2,190 points, 902 rebounds and 295 assists.
“I’m just honored to be in the same category with those other players,” Randall said. “A lot of courtesy needs to go to my teammates and coach, it’s awesome.”
Benz has been accepted to attend both the University of North Dakota and Gustavus Adolphus, Minn., next fall, but said she is currently keeping her options open. Randall has previously said he plans to stay in-state to play college basketball.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com