No. 3-ranked Loboes readyThe defending District 5 boys’ basketball tournament champions are amped up for a crack at the repeat this weekend in Jamestown, but they’ll have to do it without their big man in the middle.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
The defending District 5 boys’ basketball tournament champions are amped up for a crack at the repeat this weekend in Jamestown, but they’ll have to do it without their big man in the middle.
The No. 3-ranked and undefeated LaMoure Loboes enter this year’s tournament, which starts today at 4:30 p.m. inside the Jamestown Civic Center, as the No. 1 seed, but the team lost 6-foot-4, all-district senior center Zachary Stemen to injury two weeks ago.
The 285-pound Minnesota State University Moorhead football recruit broke his foot during LaMoure’s 52-29 victory over the Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal Rebels in Pingree on Jan. 27, and a return to court by Stemen largely depends on just how far the Loboes can stretch this year’s postseason.
“That’s a big loss for us. I don’t think people realize just how big of a part of the team he was, literally and figuratively,” LaMoure coach Darren Thielges said. “We’re hoping and praying for a miracle. The doctor said he’d be out for a minimum of five weeks.”
LaMoure finished the regular season without Stemen with victories over Lisbon and South Border, keeping its perfect season intact at 19-0. But to say the Loboes now have a different look to them is an understatement.
“It’s kind of one of those deals where we can’t put one guy in his spot and expect to do what Zach did. So we have gone to a different look and we’re still trying to adjust how we defend people in the post,” Thielges said. “But we have guys that have been waiting for their chance and now they have the opportunity to make the best of it.”
They’ll get that chance on Friday against either the No. 4-seeded Barnes County North Bison (5-14) or the No. 5-seeded Litchville-Marion-Montpelier Rebels (2-17). LaMoure, who won its fourth District 5 title in 11 years by defeating Ellendale 47-45 in last year’s championship game, earned a first-round bye in the seven-team tournament.
The Bison and the Rebels kick things off this afternoon in the first quarterfinal match of the day.
“I think they both have pretty good teams. They’ve got good skill position guys and are able to put points up, and they’re both pretty good defensively,” Thielges said. “We’re looking for any advantage we can get. We know those teams have high expectations too, and we’re not taking anything for granted.
“We’ve challenged the guys to go out and outwork whoever we’re playing against.”
Getting the Loboes to work hard hasn’t been a problem for coach Thielges the past few seasons. The defending district champs have made it all the way to the Region 3 championship game the past two seasons, finishing runner-up both years.
Defensively has been where the Loboes have etched their mark. The team hasn’t allowed an opponent 50 points or more so far this season, allowing an impressive 37.9 points to opponents through 19 games.
“Our MO is to try to play hard and play games the right way. We’re not a flashy team,” Thielges said. “Everyone says the same thing. We try to eliminate turnovers, rebound and not give up second shots, and so far it’s worked pretty well for us.
“It’s not like we are going to blow anybody out,” said Thielges, as his team is averaging 58.2 points per game offensively. “We don’t score a lot of points, but we like to keep the game manageable and make a big shot or play when we need it.”
Thielges’ top two guns offensively are his sons, senior guard Tyler Thielges and sophomore guard Brady Thielges, who can both score from anywhere on the floor. Junior guard Jared Meiklejohn can also get hot from three-point land for the Loboes, which can stretch out defenses.
With an undefeated record and a state ranking, coach Thielges knows his team has the target on their back.
“It’s kind of a nice position to be in. It means you’re doing some things right,” Thielges said. “But our challenge the last half of the season is to don’t be a target. We’ve got some weapons in our arsenal too. We’ve been trying to instill in the guys to focus on things that we can do, rather than on what other teams will do to us.
“We’re at the point of the season now where we have to go out and play, and trust that the hard work they’ve put in is going to be there when they play the game.”
In the other pair of quarterfinal games today, the No. 2-seeded Edgeley-Kulm Rebels (14-5) will face the No. 7-seeded Ellendale Cardinals (2-17), while the No. 3-seeded Central Prairie Firebirds (9-10) will take on No. 6-seeded P-B-K (2-17) in the nightcap.
Edgeley-Kulm enters the tourney on a five-game winning streak, while the Firebirds have won six of their last seven contests.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org