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South Border off to strong start

Kalli Scherbenske (dribbling) leads South Border into the Stutsman County Tournament. Scherbenske has scored over 1,000 points in her stellar career. John M. Steiner/Sun File Photo

The Stutsman County girls basketball tournament is annually a decent early-season barometer for coaches.

It’s a tournament where district and regional contenders begin to emerge, and it’s also where teams gain valuable experience to use later down the road. Coach Jason Schmidt’s South Border Mustangs appear as if they’ll fall under both those categories starting this afternoon at the Jamestown Civic Center.

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The 3-1 Mustangs earned the No. 2 seed for this weekend’s tourney, which starts at 3 p.m. with No. 1-seeded Ellendale facing Warwick. The team has its share of height and speed, but, to go along with a handful of seniors, South Border will be relying on plenty of underclassmen in order to achieve postseason success later this winter.

That gelling process continues in Jamestown, when the Mustangs take on Midkota-Kensal in the third game of the day at 6 p.m.

“We have a young squad,” Schmidt said. “We just really have to work on getting these younger girls to be able to play with us, and as the year progresses to work on our turnovers and just improving.”

The team, which went 7-15 last season and took fifth in the Stutsman, has a pair of starting senior cornerstones to build around in the likes of 5-foot-10 Madison Schnabel and 1,000-point scorer Kallie Scherbenske. With no juniors on the roster, the remaining starting lineup consists of 5-10 freshman Morgan Schnabel, freshman Courtney Jochim and sophomore Brooke Buchholz.

Scherbenske is really the team’s heart and soul, averaging 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals per game as a junior. In the team’s four games this season she’s already dished out 28 assists.

“She is just the leader of the team. She can pass, she can bring the ball up the floor, rebound. She can do it all,” Schmidt said of the senior guard. “We like to run and when she gets the ball on the wing she can go make the layup or make the dish. She can see the floor really well.”

In all, the Mustangs have five seniors, one sophomore, five freshman, and will even get a pair of eighth-graders into the mix. Madison Schnabel has developed into a formidable threat in the paint after averaging a double-double of 13 points and 10.5 rebounds per game a season ago.

The Mustangs opened the season with a 72-30 victory over Midkota-Kensal on Dec. 19 at the Linton-HMB shootout. But Schmidt said he’s expecting a different game this afternoon against the opposing Mustangs.

The new co-op between Midkota and Kensal is off to a 0-3 start.

“I think Midkota will have two players playing that did not play when we played them before, so I think it will be a lot tougher game,” Schmidt said. “You can’t take anyone lightly. Our keys are we have to be able to push the ball up the floor, box out and keep our turnovers down.”

The tournament favorite is squarely on the shoulders of the Ellendale Cardinals (4-1), as they return senior starters Madi Bommersbach, Shayna Mertz, Dacey Fuller, Rachel Herman and KaLee Hack.

Ellendale went 16-7 last year during and injury-plagued season and narrowly missed a state tournament berth after finishing second at the Region 3 tournament. But both Ellendale and South Border received votes in the first state Class B media poll of the season, which means many believe the potential for South Border is also there.

“I think Ellendale is going to be the true No. 1. I think they’re the best team in the tournament … but I think there’s a lot of good competition in the tournament,” Schmidt said. “Napoleon (Gackle-Streeter) is a team to watch out for. They’re quick and they’re very aggressive … and also the Carrington JV team. I don’t know who they’ll be bringing down, I don’t think any seniors, but they have a good squad too.”

A team coach Schmidt also pointed out as a group that might sneak up on folks this season is the new Medina-Pingree-Buchanan co-op, coached by former Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal girls coach Cory Mack.

“Not only in the tournament, but for the season,” Schmidt said. “I think they could be a tough team. They look like they have a lot of speed and a lot of athletic ability. They work really hard.”

The M-P-B Thunder (3-1) is the third team in this weekend’s tournament to have just one loss. They face Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier (2-2) at 4:30.

Midkota defeated Napoleon for the Stutsman title the past two years, and prior to that the Imperials defeated Ellendale in back-to-back title games.

South Border should be right in the mix this year, as they’ll be looking to make further noise later this season in District 6 and Region 3.

“There’s some really good teams this year. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut weak team in our region,” Schmidt said. “I think on any given night anyone can win. Our big thing is we’ll be counting on our freshmen to do a lot of stuff for us in big games, and that’s where we’ll have to get them ready for tournament time.”

Stutsman County Basketball Tournament

Today’s schedule

Game 1: No. 1 Ellendale (4-1) vs. No. 8 Warwick (0-3), 3 p.m.

Game 2: No. 4 Medina-Pingree-Buchanan (3-1) vs. No. 5 Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier (2-2), 4:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 2 South Border (3-1) vs. No. 7 Midkota-Kensal (0-3), 6 p.m.

Game 4: No. 3 Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter (3-3) vs. No. 6 Carrington JV, 7:30 p.m.

Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at