Langstaff tops best of ‘B’Steve Blehm — the name is legendary in North Dakota Class B boys high school basketball circles. And on the long list of players named to the first team of the North Dakota Class B boys basketball all-state team since Blehm graduated in 1973, nobody has come closer to the legend than Melvin Langstaff.
By: By GREG DEVILLERS, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — Steve Blehm — the name is legendary in North Dakota Class B boys high school basketball circles. And on the long list of players named to the first team of the North Dakota Class B boys basketball all-state team since Blehm graduated in 1973, nobody has come closer to the legend than Melvin Langstaff.
Langstaff, the North Dakota Mr. Basketball award winner this season, heads the annual Class B all-state team, which is selected by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Joining him on the all-state first team are seniors and Mr. Basketball finalists Mike Paulson, Hatton-Northwood; Justin McCloud, Bottineau; and Dan Yale, Berthold. Rounding out the first team is North Star junior Jake Hagler, the lone unanimous selection.
Langstaff poured in an average of 38.4 points a game for Warwick this season. That’s the highest scoring average by a Class B first-team all-state pick since 1973, when Blehm — who had a state-record 3,859 career points and once scored 85 in a game — averaged 43.8 points during his senior season at North Dakota School for the Deaf. (That wasn’t even Blehm’s best — he averaged 47.3 points his sophomore season while averaging 41.1 in his career).
Previously, the closest first-team all-stater to Blehm’s senior scoring average had been Page’s Brian Buhr, who averaged 36 points in the 1986-87 season.
“When people who know basketball hear Steve Blehm’s name, they think phenomenal scorer,” Warwick coach Kevin Bennefeld said. “He’s legendary. To put up numbers close to him, that’s a tremendous accomplishment by Melvin.”
Langstaff provided the 19-5 Warriors with a strong all-around game, as the 5-foot-10 standout led the team with averages of 10.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He finished with a school-record 1,944 points.
“Melvin’s an average outside shooter,” Bennefeld said. “His game was penetration, to get into the lane. He could post up and score inside just on sheer will. But Melvin also is a great passer. If anybody was open, he got them the ball.”
Versatile is the word that describes all five first-team picks.
Hagler expanded his game this season, becoming more of a scoring threat in leading 26-1 North Star to a second-place finish in the state tournament. The junior paced North Star with averages of 28 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists. He has 1,826 career points.
“We graduated some big scorers last spring,” North Star coach Jeff Hagler said. “We needed Jake to score more. I think he was still always a point guard first, trying to get everyone involved. But when we really needed points, he’d go after it.”
The 6-foot-5 Paulson was a standout for the 20-5 Hatton-Northwood team that was Region 2 runner-up. The senior, a shifty player off the dribble, averaged 23.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1 block. Paulson, a second team all-stater last season, had 1,697 points.
“Mike’s biggest strength was his ability to penetrate and get to the basket,” Thunder coach Keenan Konschak said. “He had a quick first step, and he had the ability to contort his body to find a way to get shots off. And he’d put (the off-balance) shots in. He had the size to play in the post, plus he’s a good 3-point shooter.”
Yale is a repeat first-team selection after leading Berthold to a fourth-place finish at the Class B state tournament. He was a do-it-all performer, averaging 20.9 points. He grabbed 8.5 rebounds a game and averaged 1.7 blocks, but he also hit 51 treys and averaged 2.2 assists. A four-year starter, the 6-3 Yale started on three teams that played at the state tournament.
“He’s a kid who can play anywhere from the point 3through the post,” Berthold coach Brock Teets said. “If he was defended by a guard, we posted him. If he was guarded by a post, he went outside. He can make his own shot off the dribble, hit the three and he’s a very good post player, strong and physical. He’s the most gifted athlete I’ve ever coached.”
McCloud, a 6-3 point guard, had averages of 24.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 3.2 assists in leading Bottineau to a 23-2 record and second place in the Region 6 tournament. He had a school single-season record of 607 points and finished with 1,456 career points.
The second team:
Justin Arp, Sargent Central: The 6-7 senior center averaged 21.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.3 blocks.
Daniel Grande, North Star: The 6-2 junior averaged 18.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 4.1 steals for the 26-1 Bearcats.
Jake Hanson, Grafton: The 6-foot senior guard averaged 19 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Spoilers team that finished fifth at state. He had 1,191 career points.
Andreas Holm, Divide County: The 6-2 senior averaged 21 points, 17.2 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.8 assists for the Divide County team that placed eighth at the Class B state tournament.
Tanner Holte, Des Lacs-Burlington: The 6-3 sophomore averaged 20.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.8 steals, leading his team to fourth place in the Region 6 tournament.
Landon Lechler, Beach: The 6-8 senior is a second team all-state pick for the second straight season after averaging 21.8 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
Tanner Purintun, Linton-HMB: The 6-2 senior was a Mr. Basketball finalist, averaging 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 4.1 steals for the Lions team that finished seventh at state.
Preston Smith, New Town: The 6-2 senior averaged 20.3 points, 14.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 4.8 steals and 3.3 blocks.
Jacob Volk, Dickinson Trinity: The 6-3 junior averaged 18.5 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists for the Trinity team that was Region 7 runner-up.
Matt Zimmerman, Central Cass: The 6-4 senior averaged 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and made 49 three-pointers for the Squirrels team that finished sixth at state.