Opinion Corner: Another exciting year for ‘B’There are many things I’m proud of, but when this time of year rolls around I can normally 1-up any former high school athlete I’m sharing a friendly conversation with.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
There are many things I’m proud of, but when this time of year rolls around I can normally 1-up any former high school athlete I’m sharing a friendly conversation with.
I have treaded the championship-game court of the state Class B boys’ basketball tournament.
And, believe it or not, I was in uniform and the clock was running.
The year was 1998, and the No. 5 jersey I was proudly wearing displayed the colors of the Leeds Lions. But standing amongst trees with my 5-foot-8 stature, and not having the ability to convert a left-handed layup if my mother’s life was depending on it, I was more of what one would consider a morale leader.
Nevertheless, I was there.
The excitement, the adrenaline and the atmosphere was something I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced since, or probably ever will again.
Leeds finished that season with a mark of 27-1, falling to Standing Rock 59-50 in the state title game in front of an official attendance of 10,900 at the Minot State University Dome. Probably like most people who are reading this, I don’t believe any of those nearly 11,000 people could properly pronounce “Savaloja” in the program, either.
I remember the court announcer spelling it out phonetically. “Sa-Va-La,” there you go.
Anyway, the month of March — and high school basketball — is a link to my past, and the job that I do affords me the opportunity to relive a little bit of that each winter.
So let’s get down to business and do a little dissecting of this year’s Class B Elite 8.
For starters, there are three undefeated teams hitting the court in today’s state quarterfinals at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. One of those teams is the defending state champion North Star Bearcats (24-0) vs. the Grafton Spoilers (22-2) in a rematch of last year’s state title game.
The Bearcats (Cando-Bisbee-Egeland) defeated Grafton 63-55 in the title game a year ago, and the Spoilers are probably going to have another long afternoon trying to defend North Star’s Jacob Hagler and Daniel Grande.
The Bearcats have already defeated the Spoilers this season 67-58, and Hagler — a first team all-state selection as a sophomore last year — had a monster game with 37 points and 10 rebounds. Hagler is averaging 29 points, 7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game this season, while Grande — another junior — has also had a solid season (18.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 4.3 spg).
I’ve got to give the nod to North Star in this one. A 40-point opening-game performance from Hagler is not out of the question. It will be interesting to see where this 6-2 guard decides to play collegiate ball.
On a side note, the only other team at the state tournament the Bearcats have faced this season is Beulah (22-3), who they defeated 74-49 behind 32 points from Hagler.
Beulah gets to face the Region 1 champion Central Cass Squirrels (25-0) tonight in the nightcap. Not too surprisingly, I’ve got to go with the Squirrels.
I’ve seen the Squirrels in action, and if I had to place bets I’d say Central Cass and North Star will be meeting up in Saturday’s championship. The Squirrels took down Linton-HMB 75-66 at the Jamestown Civic Center earlier this year, behind 17 points from Ben Sundquist and 16 more from Ellery Bresnahan.
Bresnahan, a 5-8 junior guard, is the playmaker for the Squirrels. He’s averaging 16 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 5.4 assists per game. But Central Cass also has the big man in the middle, 6-4 senior Matt Zimmerman (18.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3 apg).
Central Cass is a tough matchup for the Miners, who are led by senior guard Casey Dupong with 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
The final undefeated team is the Lewis & Clark-Berthold Bombers (25-0) who are matching up against Linton-HMB (17-7). The Bombers finished second at the state tourney to Carrington two years ago, and they’ve reloaded and are looking for bear.
The Bombers have two big bullets the Lions have to dodge in the likes of 6-3 senior Dan Yale (first team all-state, 21.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and 6-3 senior Alex Bloms (21.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg). Dan Yale was a sophomore when the Bombers placed second, and he was an absolute beast back then.
But one can’t count out coach Dan Carr and the Lions, who finished seventh at last year’s state tournament. They’ll be looking for a big day out of senior guard Tanner Purintun (21.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.4 spg), who lit up the Region 3 title game in Jamestown vs. Napoleon with five three-pointers and 31 points.
The first game of the day has Shiloh Christian (21-3) matching up with Divide County (17-8), and this one is kind of a head-scratcher.
Look for Divide County to get the ball to 6-2 senior Andreas Holm (21.4 ppg, 18.6 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 2.1 apg), while the Skyhawks have a couple of nice options in 5-10 senior guard Joey Dwyer (11.5 ppg, 6.6 apg) and 6-2 senior forward Aaron Hultstrand (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
Don’t let Divide County’s record fool you. I think this game could come down to the wire.
That’s all I’ve got folks. This is “Sa-Va-La” saying, enjoy the tournament.