Ready to defend: Back at full strength, Midkota set for StutsmanSanta came just a little late for the Midkota Mustangs, but when he’s bearing a gift that will eventually produce 20 points per night who cares about tardiness?
By: By Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Santa came just a little late for the Midkota Mustangs, but when he’s bearing a gift that will eventually produce 20 points per night who cares about tardiness?
The girls of Binford, McHenry, Glenfield, Sutton and Grace City faced two tough opponents in 2012 and got their Class B basketball season off to a 0-2 start.
But bring on the New Year.
Midkota ignited for 74 points during a 30-point victory against Griggs County Central last Saturday to start 2013 undefeated, and back in the lineup — as predicted — was 5-foot-11 junior forward Shaye Ronningen.
Ronningen injured her right ankle during the volleyball postseason back in the fall, and Midkota girls basketball coach Kyle Frappier was hopeful she’d be ready to go after Christmas break.
After averaging 19.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for Midkota as a sophomore last season, Ronningen quietly dropped in 13 points in her return against the Cougars to help the Mustangs cruise 74-44.
“Obviously it changes everything for us. It gives us more size and another scoring option,” Frappier said. “Replacing an eighth-grade girl with a girl that averages 20 points a game is a nice addition to have back.”
The timing of Ronningen’s return couldn’t have worked out any better. The Mustangs will be taking a crack at winning back-to-back Stutsman County tournament titles in Jamestown over the weekend.
The tournament begins today inside the Civic Center at 3 p.m. with No. 1-seeded and No. 3-ranked Napoleon (5-0) squaring off against Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier (1-5).
Midkota defeated Napoleon 64-58 in last year’s championship game, thwarting an Imperial three-peat as Napoleon had won back-to-back Stutsman crowns in its first two years competing in the tourney.
“We are excited to get back there to play,” Frappier said. “If we can play well, we get to play three good teams and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The return of Ronningen is huge for Midkota. The team consists of just nine players when all are healthy, and four of those athletes are eighth-graders.
The team, which finished its 2011-12 campaign with a record of 20-4 and a trip to the Region 4 championship game, started the season with its back against the wall. Not only was Ronningen out, but the coach’s daughter, 5-10 senior Kallie Frappier, was lost for the season after suffering an ACL tear in the District 7 volleyball championship match.
“I think we are good enough offensively to kind of compensate for not having (Kallie) on the floor. It’s on the defensive end and the rebounding presence she was for us (that hurts),” Kyle Frappier said. “She was also just such a good decision maker against the press, which took a lot of pressure off of us.”
How Midkota handles pressure during this week’s tournament will be a key to its success. The No. 3-seeded Mustangs kick things off against No. 6-seeded South Border in tonight’s final quarterfinal game at 7:30.
“That’s something we are going to keep our eyes on this weekend,” Frappier said “(Kallie) wouldn’t panic and was just such a good passer … Someone will have to step up and fill those shoes for us.”
Before defeating Griggs County Central with Ronningen, Midkota lost to No. 10-ranked Shiloh Christian 65-30, and the always stout Linton-HMB Lions 41-40, without her. But what she opened up for the other players on the court was witnessed in the scoring column.
Senior forward Emily Berge poured in a game-high 26 points against the Cougars, while junior guard Saddie Harding dropped in 16.
“The girls just play with much more confidence with (Ronningen) on the floor,” Frappier said. “Emily has actually been off to a pretty fast start. She’s been determined to pick up the slack with two girls being out, and with Shaye opposite Emily it’s opened a lot more things up for Emily.”
Cousins Saddie and Callie Harding are both snipers from long range and are no strangers to lighting up the Civic Center. Callie drilled six 3-pointers and scored 21 points to help the Mustangs defeat South Border 62-38 in last year’s semifinals, while Saddie drained four 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the championship against Napoleon the next night.
“They can really stretch the floor on a team, and they really like playing in Jamestown,” Frappier said of the Hardings. “They can get on a roll and knock down five (3-pointers) in a hurry, and that just opens things up for Emily and Shaye.”
Also a threat from long or short range is Midkota’s fifth starter, sophomore guard Brooke Ronningen.
“With the five girls on the floor we are pretty balanced, I will say that,” Frappier said. “We can get points from everyone. Holding up condition-wise might be a challenge for us for three nights, but we are going to try.”
Staying out of foul trouble will also help out immensely, as the Mustangs will try to slow down South Border’s Kalli Scherbenske and 5-10 Madison Schnabel.
“Scherbenske is just a really good basketball player. She makes good decisions, which makes them difficult to press,” Frappier said. “They also have (Schnabel) in the middle who can matchup with Shaye and give her problems.
“From what I’ve seen of them in the past, they like to control the tempo and keep control of the game. It’s a tough first-rounder for us.”
Ellendale, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, will face Central Prairie tonight at 6. Ellendale defeated South Border 60-41 in last year’s third-place matchup, and prior to that Ellendale reached back-to-back title games where they ran into the buzz saw that was — and is — Napoleon.
“I think we can play with anyone in the tournament and be a handful for anyone in the tournament,” said Frappier, who said he wouldn’t mind meeting up with both Ellendale and Napoleon this weekend. “I’d certainly like to get a shot at both of them, and I know they’d all be pretty good games.
“If we want to take our girls to the next level, our girls have to compete with teams like that.”
Stutsman County Girls Tournament
Tournament team seeding and records
No. 1: Napoleon, 5-0.
No. 2: Ellendale, 5-2.
No. 3: Midkota, 1-2.
No. 4: Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal, 2-3.
No. 5: Carrington JV, NA.
No. 6: South Border, 1-3.
No. 7: Central Prairie, 1-2.
No. 8: Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier, 1-5.
Tournament team records against the field
Napoleon, 1-0 (defeated E-K-M 64-54 on Jan. 4).
Ellendale, 3-0 (defeated E-K-M 60-24 on Dec. 28; defeated South Border 47-41 on Jan. 3; defeated P-B-K 45-40 on Jan. 4).
P-B-K, 1-1 (defeated South Border 29-27 on Dec. 15; defeated by Ellendale 45-40 on Jan. 4).
South Border, 1-2 (defeated by P-B-K 29-27 on Dec. 15; defeated E-K-M 55-39 on Dec. 20; defeated by Ellendale 47-41 on Jan. 3).
Central Prairie, 0-0.
E-K-M, 0-3 (defeated by South Border 55-39 on Dec. 20; defeated by Ellendale 60-24 on Dec. 28; defeated by Napoleon 64-54 on Jan. 4).
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com