Opinion Corner: Midkota’s Cinderella sixAfter much deliberation within the confines of my own head, I’m calling them the Cinderella Six. The Kentucky Wildcats won NCAA championships in 1948 and ’49 with the Fabulous Five. The Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship with the Boston Three Party of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the 2011-12 Midkota girls’ basketball team will be remembered as possessing the Cinderella Six.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
After much deliberation within the confines of my own head, I’m calling them the Cinderella Six.
The Kentucky Wildcats won NCAA championships in 1948 and ’49 with the Fabulous Five. The Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship with the Boston Three Party of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the 2011-12 Midkota girls’ basketball team will be remembered as possessing the Cinderella Six.
It’s quite simple, really.
When a group of athletes — at any level — forms a bonding chemistry that produces memorable and winning results against the crème de la crème, titles are applied.
I know what everyone must be thinking. “Mike, you’re kind of putting the cart before the horse here.”
No. I’m not.
So what if Midkota’s six-girl rotation of starters Kallie Frappier, Emily Berge, Shaye Ronningen, Callie Harding and Saddie Harding, and critical sub, freshman Brooke Ronningen, haven’t won a state title?
They might not even win tonight’s Region 4 championship against Lakota-Adams-Edmore at the Devils Lake Sports Center. The Raiders just defeated the Mustangs 56-43 in the second round of the District 7 tournament on Feb. 26 in Fort Totten after the No. 2-seeded Mustangs (20-3) earned a first-round bye.
Midkota needed to win a Region 4 qualifier the next night against Harvey-Wells County to even advance to this week’s regional, which they did by the final of 52-45.
But what the Mustangs accomplished in Devils Lake on Tuesday night against the No. 1-ranked Carrington Cardinals in the region semifinals will become a part of Midkota lore for decades to come.
The Cinderella Six — without a senior in the group — upended the senior-laden defending state champs and two-time defending Region 4 champs 49-46, after the Cards embarrassed the Mustangs by 29 points (73-44) a month earlier on their home court in Binford.
The fact that every member of the team is coming back next year adds to the sometimes overused Cinderella status. They’ve still got an entire year left to go, and just a handful had thought that this would be the year they’d give Carrington a run for its money, let alone defeat them.
But defeat them they did.
The team has taken its fair share of lumps over the past few seasons, but anyone who has watched this group knew they were up-and-coming. Many played as seventh-graders and prior to this year the team’s win-loss record amounted to 31-36 over the past three seasons.
The team turned the proverbial corner last year with its mark of 14-9, and the Mustangs’ 20 victories in 2011-12 is the proof in the pudding.
Midkota won its first-ever Stutsman County Tournament championship in Jamestown back in January, taking down another stout team in the likes of Napoleon 64-58. Napoleon is also still in the state-tournament hunt, as they’ll be facing Linton-HMB in tonight’s Region 3 championship game in Napoleon.
So after years of hard work and keeping a keen eye on the prize, here stands Midkota in the state’s Class B Sweet Sixteen.
They’ll be hoping for a similar outcome that many of these same girls produced back in November, when Midkota punched its ticket to the state Class B volleyball tournament where they finished third.
Lakota-Adams-Edmore may have gotten the best of them a week ago, but I’m assuming that most Midkota faithful remember the first time the Raiders and Mustangs met up this season.
Midkota got that one 52-40 in Binford on Jan. 19.
Wouldn’t it be something if that glass slipper fits the Cinderella Six again tonight?
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Tuesday’s regional semifinal loss to Midkota should not — and most certainly, will not — diminish the pride of the Carrington girls’ basketball program.
Many with tears in their eyes, it was understandably difficult for the Cardinals to keep their heads held up high after the heartbreaking outcome.
But those girls are champions, and they didn’t have to prove that to anyone. Nobody can take that 2010-11 state Class B girls’ basketball championship banner away from them, and they have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about.
To me, it seems like it was yesterday when I was talking to Carrington seniors Becca Scherr, Sierra Rosenau and Emily Thompson after they upended Central Cass 54-46 for all the marbles on the floor of the state title game in Bismarck.
Rosenau and Thompson were named co-MVPs of the tournament, and tears of joy were the only tears shed that evening.
Carrington, under the guidance of head coach Andy Braaten, have been brilliant over the past four years. With one game left to play, the team has racked up two Region 4 titles, a third-place finish and a title at state, while compiling an overall record of 89-12.
But Braaten and the Cardinals haven’t only been a winning act. They’re a classy one, too.
Keep those heads up, girls. You were a force to be reckoned with, and your second-to-none talents brought you far more accomplishments than most.
Finish it off strong tonight against North Star in the third-place pairing.
How about those Rebels of Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal?
Kudos to head coach Cory Mack and his squad of girls, for what will be a remarkable finish to their 2011-12 season tonight in Napoleon.
If someone would have told me the Rebels (13-11) were going to fall a mere three points shy of a Region 3 title-game berth midway through the season, I might have wanted to check that person’s blood sugar levels.
But the Rebels made believers out of all of us, starting with a 62-52 victory over two-time defending District 5 champion Ellendale last week in Jamestown for the District 5 crown.
The team then rolled into Napoleon to face Kidder County — a team that beat them 65-52 earlier in the season — to kick off the Region 3 tournament on Monday. The Rebels turned the tables on the Pirates by winning 54-53, as all of a sudden nearly everyone on the court for P-B-K had become a scoring threat.
That started in districts, when senior Kelly Carlson, juniors Amanda Beckley and Shantel Albrecht, sophomore Morgan Thomas and freshman Jenna Van Ray, could almost all be counted on for double-digit scoring every night. Carlson and Beckley were named all-district, while Carlson took District 5 Senior Player of The Year honors.
The Rebels’ inspiring run ended on Tuesday night, as they fell to Napoleon 63-60 in the Region 3 semifinals. But what an incredible effort, the game was tied at 47-47 after three and the Imperials needed 31 total points out of second team all-state junior Sheridon Dewald to get past the Rebels.
P-B-K, the little engine that could, faces South Border tonight in the Region 3 third-place game.
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The Napoleon Imperials have had to settle for a third-place finish in the Region 3 Girls’ Basketball Tournament the past two seasons, but that won’t happen again this year.
With Tuesday’s 63-60 victory over P-B-K, the Imperials have a date with defending Region 3 champ Linton-HMB in tonight’s title game in Napoleon, where they’ll be taking aim at their first state Class B tournament appearance since 1983.
Napoleon (18-6) holds a 2-1 series edge vs. Linton-HMB (17-6) this season, but the Lions won the last meeting 62-53 in the District 6 championship game last week in Hazleton. It was a bit of revenge, as the Imperials defeated the Lions 47-38 last season for their first district crown since 1993.
Both teams have a formidable 1-2 punch. For the Lions, it’s District 6 Senior Player of The Year Kayln Schneider (5-foot-9) and 5-8 senior Robin Weber. The duo led the Lions to a third-place finish at the state Class B one year ago.
For the Imperials, it’s 5-6 second team all-state junior Sheridon Dewald and the team’s sparkplug, 5-5 junior guard Kendra Weigel. Dewald is playing with a torn ACL in her left knee, but after pouring in 31 against P-B-K on Tuesday she seems to be finding her stride.
The Imperials have gone an impressive 60-12 the past three seasons — with six of those losses coming this season — under head coach Darcy Lehr, and would love to finally end the team’s state tournament drought tonight against the Lions.
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And, finally, I’ll take a look into the crystal ball.
There’s one team that’s currently sticking in my mind that might have an opportunity to release District 6’s stranglehold in the Region 3 tournament in the coming years. That District 5 team is the Cardinals of Ellendale.
They missed out on capturing the district title three-peat this season, but they’ve got a nice group of up-and-coming sophomores. Those athletes are forwards Shayna Mertz and KaLee Hack, and guards Madilyn Bommersbach, Rachel Herman and Dacey Fuller.
Those five athletes all played integral roles in Ellendale’s 15-7 season this year. Mertz, Bommersbach and Fuller were named to the all-district team. Mertz was as smooth as they come in the post for a sophomore, while Bommersbach is fearless and will hit treys all night if left open.
Ellendale’s season came to a close with a 62-51 loss to South Border in the opening round of the Region 3 tourney Monday.
Since District 9 was replaced by District 5 over a decade ago, a District 5 team has never won the Region 3 girls’ tournament.
I’m not trying to put pressure on the future Cards, but it’ll be difficult to not be pulling for them.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org