Cardinals vs. ImperialsAsk someone when the last time a District 5 girls basketball team won the Region 3 tournament and most responses will be similar to the one given by Ellendale head coach Matt Herman. “It’s been a long, long time,” Herman said.
By: By Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Ask someone when the last time a District 5 girls basketball team won the Region 3 tournament and most responses will be similar to the one given by Ellendale head coach Matt Herman.
“It’s been a long, long time,” Herman said.
As a matter of fact, it’s been so long that it took a little nosing around in books that now have a larger concentration of dust, rather than ink, on their pages to find the answer.
The year was 1994 and the team was Gackle-Streeter, competing in what was then labeled as District 9. The district realignment of 1998 replaced District 9 with what is now District 5, and also shipped Gackle-Streeter to District 6, where it went on to win back-to-back Region 3 titles as a District 6 representative from 1998-99.
District 9 moved farther west in 1998, and it still comprises such teams as Shiloh Christian, Standing Rock and Flasher.
But the bottom line, however, is that current District 6 teams have held a nearly 20-year stranglehold over current District 5 opponents for the Region 3 crown. Ellendale (16-6) will be hoping to end all that by upsetting No. 3-ranked Napoleon (21-1) in the state Class B’s version of the Sweet 16 tonight in Hazelton.
“We’re going to have to cut down on our turnovers and make it a half-court game,” said Herman, whose Cardinals fell to Napoleon 73-60 back on Feb. 12. “We were up one at the half and before we knew what hit us in the third quarter they were up.”
Ellendale led the Imperials 35-34 at the half in Napoleon last month, but the Imperials erupted to outscore the Cards 22-7 in the third to secure what would end up as a 13-point victory.
“They’ve just got the power to do that to people,” Herman said. “Before you know what hits you, boom, there it is. They go on runs and things start to snowball.”
Napoleon’s run-and-gun style of play has garnered 79 wins to just 14 losses over the past four seasons entering tonight’s Region 3 title game, which will tip off at approximately 7:30.
Over the last three years the Imperials have finished the region tourney third (2010), third (2011) and second (2012), and are looking to finally get over the hump with the team’s first trip to state since 1983. The team has six seniors and brought back all five starters from last year.
“We’re hoping our experience in the region will help us out. It’s definitely not new territory for us, we’ve been here before,” Napoleon coach Darcy Lehr said. “It will take a total team effort. We’ve got six seniors, so hopefully they’ll be able to lead us through this championship game.”
The two central cogs for the Imperials are senior standouts Sheridon Dewald and Kendra Weigel. Both have been playing varsity since the eighth grade and both have piled up impressive career scoring numbers.
Weigel currently has amassed 1,441 career points, while Dewald eclipsed 2,000 earlier in the region tournament and now stands with 2,022 career markers.
According to the 2012-13 edition of Miss Hoopster, Dewald is the 25th Class B girls player to reach 2,000 points and currently ranks 23rd all time. Dewald is the second female athlete from Napoleon to accomplish the feat, as Deb Oldenberger racked up 2,402 points (eighth all time) from 1985-90.
Herman said the Cardinals will be paying plenty of attention to Napoleon’s dynamic duo tonight. Dewald dropped in 27 points, while Weigel and Mariah Jangula each scored 16, against Ellendale back in February.
“You hope to contain them. They are gifted, and they’re the reason why they’ve had the run that they’ve had the last five or six years,” Herman said. “But you also have to look beyond those two. Every one of them can contribute in some way, and you’ve got to play a good, solid all-around game to have a chance.”
Ellendale’s main offensive threats this season have been junior guards Madilyn Bommersbach and Dacey Fuller. Prior to the region tournament Bommersbach had hit 38 treys and averaged 15.7 points per night, while Fuller had connected from downtown 30 times and averaged 10.7 a game.
Bommersbach is also deadly at the free-throw line, converting nearly 90 percent of her freebies this season. Bommersbach hit a pair at the line in overtime during Ellendale’s 47-42 OT win over Linton-HMB in Tuesday’s semifinals.
“(Ellendale’s) a lot like us. They go on runs if you let them, and they have two good guards in Bommersbach and Fuller,” Lehr said. “They’re a very good team that is playing very good basketball right now. It’ll be a battle for us to go where we want to go.”
That place is this year’s state Class B tournament, which begins next Thursday in Fargo with either Napoleon or Ellendale facing the Region 7 champion, Dickinson Trinity or Beach, inside the Fargodome.
It’s a place Ellendale has never been. Today will mark the first time the Cardinals have appeared in a region title game.
“I think you have to play with a little emotion,” Herman said. “If you can’t get pumped up about a game like this, maybe you should not be there.”
The Imperials will be in search of their fourth state tournament appearance.
“It would be a great thing for our basketball program here in Napoleon,” Lehr said. “These kids have worked hard. They deserve it, now they just have to go out and earn it.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org