Primed for a run: 22-1 Napoleon set for state ‘B’The girls from Napoleon have won a boatload of games the past few years playing a certain style of basketball. Don’t expect them to try and reinvent the wheel this weekend during the state B at the Fargodome.
By: By Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The girls from Napoleon have won a boatload of games the past few years playing a certain style of basketball.
Don’t expect them to try and reinvent the wheel this weekend during the state B at the Fargodome.
“We’re going to put the pressure on them right away and not give them any easy looks,” said Napoleon coach Darcy Lehr, in regards to the Imperials’ opening-round game against Beach at 1 p.m. today. “Limit them to one shot and try to run as much transition offense as we can.”
Napoleon — embarking on its first trip to the state B girls tournament since 1983 — has played to a record of 98-19 and two District 6 titles over the past five seasons, and a majority of that success has been due to the team’s shutdown style of defensive pressure.
The Ellendale Cardinals struggled mightily in the first half of last week’s Region 3 title game in Hazelton to just get the ball past the half-court line against the Imperials. Napoleon (22-1) lifted the Region 3 trophy by winning 59-41, after recording 15 steals and forcing the District 5 champs into 21 turnovers.
The major catalyst to all that mayhem is 5-foot-6 senior and master thief, Kendra Weigel (1,460 career points). Weigel has swiped a team-best 91 steals on the season, and has averaged four of the Imperials’ impressive 12.3 steals per night.
But Beach head coach Bob Waldal is well aware of what Napoleon brings to the court. The Buccaneers (19-5) fell to the Imperials 60-55 during the Linton-HMB Shootout in Hazelton back on Dec. 14.
That was the first game of the season for either team, and Waldal expects his “Running Bucs” to handle Napoleon’s pressure much better a second time around.
“I don’t fear that, and I don’t think Darcy fears our press either because they have good ball handlers,” Waldal said. “I think Napoleon is better when things are in disarray, just mayhem up and down the floor. That’s where they’re going to play their best and we have to eliminate that and play with a lot of control.
“And, we can. We’re a team that doesn’t turn the ball over.”
The Region 7 champion Bucs have averaged just six turnovers per game this season, due in large part to the floor general-type point guard Hailee Farstveet. The 5-9 junior is a 44-percent shooter who averages 15.4 points a game and leads the team in assists (88) and steals (62).
“The kid can handle the ball,” Waldal said of Farstveet. “Teams have tried pressing us and they end up taking it off because of her.”
Beach has pretty much built a dynasty out west over the past six seasons. The Buccaneers are playing in their fourth consecutive state tournament, winning a state title in 2010, and since 2007 the team has built an overall record of 137-16.
During its string of four straight Region 7 titles, Beach is 95-9 with five of those losses coming this season. Beach finished third in last year’s state tournament.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Waldal said. “We’ve had good kids that want to play the game and they’ve committed, and that’s what it takes.”
The Bucs center around three juniors this season. Along with Farstveet, the team relies on 5-6 Bailey Waldal (14.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and 5-9 Cid Stedman (16.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
“We have to play good team defense on them,” Lehr said. “They are going to get their points, but we just have to make sure that one of them doesn’t go off on us.”
The Bucs aren’t very tall, but neither is Napoleon who plays without a player over 5-9. Beach lost 6-2 sophomore Channa Clarin to a torn ACL during the volleyball season.
Clarin scored 14 points and was named Player of the Game after last year’s third-place game in Bismarck, which saw the Bucs defeat Shiloh Christian 63-58.
“We’re not as fast as we were in the past. We don’t apply the press as well, so we’ve kind of diverted our attention to man-to-man,” Waldal said. “That’s always been the guts of our defense anyways, and we’ve been playing more half-court basketball.”
But Waldal is comparing this year’s Bucs to the Bucs who have won 21 or more games the past five seasons. Don’t let it fool you. Beach can still get out and run.
“We almost mirror each other with the things that we do,” Lehr said. “When you get two teams like that playing against each other, usually the team that wins takes care of the basketball better and plays the better defensive game.”
Napoleon’s six seniors of Weigel (15.6 ppg, 4 rpg), Sheridon Dewald, Brenna Schmidt, Brianna Wolf, Mikayla Young and Kecia Ellison have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. The team finished second in the region last year and third the previous two years before that, while being ranked in the state for a majority of that time.
Lehr said he figures the team’s biggest obstacle might be coming down from last week’s high in Hazelton.
“Beach is very experienced in being in the state tournament. They’re not happy just getting there,” Lehr said. “One of our toughest tasks right now is to come down from this high we are on and get ready to play more basketball games (starting today).”
Look for Dewald, a two-time second team all-state recipient, to shine this weekend. The 5-7 standout is the 25th B girls player to eclipse 2,000 points (2,038), and has averaged 19.5 points and 5.9 rebounds this season.
Dewald has been playing varsity since the eighth-grade, and her 15.7 points per game that year was the lowest season output of her stellar career.
The teams other starters include Young (6.7 ppg, 3.5rpg), Schmidt (5.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg) and 5-8 junior Mariah Jangula (10.1 ppg, 3 rpg).
“The whole community is fired up. We’ve been close the last few years of going,” Lehr said. “This year we definitely played a championship game with the focus we needed to pull it out at the end here.”
The coach said in reference to last week’s victory over Ellendale.
“That was our best overall team effort of the year. Hopefully we continue to play good team basketball at the state tournament.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com