Pirates planning deep run at ‘B’Reaching three state tournaments in five years isn’t an easy feat, but the Kidder County Lady Pirates did just that last Friday night in Hazleton. The 23-1 Pirates captured their third Region 3 title this decade by getting past Litchville-Marion-Montpelier 52-35, improving their current winning streak to 22 games.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
Reaching three state tournaments in five years isn’t an easy feat, but the Kidder County Lady Pirates did just that last Friday night in Hazleton.
The 23-1 Pirates captured their third Region 3 title this decade by getting past Litchville-Marion-Montpelier 52-35, improving their current winning streak to 22 games.
Not to mention senior point guard Lindsey Sand surpassed 1,000 career points in the game — to go along with over 400 career assists — and was named Region 3 Senior Player of the Year.
“It’s a good accomplishment for these girls,” Kidder County coach Mark Sand said. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to be playing on the last day of the season and we are going to be there.”
But after capturing a fifth-place consolation championship at the state tourney in 2005, and brining home the seventh-place hardware in 2007, it would be hard to argue that the team isn’t hungry for something more this time around.
The Pirates will kick off their 2009 state Class B tournament at 3 p.m. on Thursday against the Region 8 champion Stanley Blue Jays at the Grand Forks Alerus Center. Kidder County was ranked No. 4 in the last state girls’ basketball poll of the season, and Sand says the tournament’s top prize is certainly in the mind of his team.
“I’d say our goal this week is to win three games. That would really be nice,” Sand said. “If we go in with a positive attitude, we should have just as good of a chance as any team there.
“(The Blue Jays) are big, that’s the comment I’ve got on them. We’ll be pressing them.”
Solid defense has been a staple of Kidder County’s play all season long. They’ve only given up 40 points three times this season, and those games were against Carrington, New Rockford-Sheyenne and Dickinson Trinity.
All three of those teams were ranked at one point this season, while New Rockford-Sheyenne was last ranked No. 6 and also made it into this week’s state B by winning Region 4.
“We don’t allow a lot of points. The girls pressure the ball and they work hard at it,” Sand said. “We’re not big, but they get the job done.”
Time after time this season, Kidder County’s pressure has resulted in easy buckets in transition, but Sand said it also creates something else besides steals and scores.
“The defensive pressure gets to the other team’s shooters,” Sand said. “A lot of the time they’ll be worried about bringing the ball up the court and not shooting.”
Kidder County will be hoping for big things this week out of the 5-8 Lindsey Sand and 5-10 junior post player Eli Benz. The duo has been sparking the team’s offense and defense all season.
Lindsay has averaged 14.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 3.5 steals this year. Benz, on the other hand, has put up 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists this season, while blocking a total of 55 shots.
“Lindsey’s ability to bring the ball up the court and find Eli inside — it’s such a good one-two combination,” Sand said. “They’ve played together since they were fifth and sixth graders. They’ve put the time in and have stuck it out.”
If the Pirates do find a way past Stanley on Thursday, they’ll face either New Rockford-Sheyenne or Hankinson (Region 1 champs) in Friday night’s semifinals. Kidder County defeated New Rockford-Sheyenne 54-46 in New Rockford back on Jan. 19.
Win or lose, coach Sand said he’s sure the Pirates will have plenty of support this week in Grand Forks.
“For a small community, to get to the state tournament is a big deal. Everyone’s excited,” Sand said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com