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Family ties Pirates together

It’s hard to not talk family when Class B basketball is the topic of discussion.

Year after year, small North Dakota community schools essentially produce team rosters of extended family members. Whether the players are actually related or not doesn’t really seem to matter.

But in many instances, they are. Take, for example, the Region 3 champion Kidder County girls basketball team.

Its roster consists of not only a pair of sisters, but also a pair of cousins. They’ll all be taking the Fargodome court on Thursday at 3 p.m., to face Bismarck Shiloh Christian in the opening round of the state Class B tournament.

“It’s a lot of camaraderie, you could call it,” fifth-year Kidder County head coach Dan Welder said. “It’s close-knit. These girls have been playing together for a long time. It’s great for our community.”

Senior cousins Sadie Rohrich and Morgan Rohrich have provided the bulk of Kidder County’s offense this season, en route to the team’s third Region 3 title in the past six seasons. They start alongside senior Mary Nicholson, and sophomores Paige Schmidt and Rebecca Schmidt.

The Schmidts are not related, but Nicholson’s younger sister, junior Jenna Nicholson, comes off the bench for the 19-5 Pirates.

Defense, defense and more defense is what Kidder County brings to the table. The team has allowed opponents an average of just 36.1 points per game over its 24 games played, and has only allowed 50 or more points three times.

The last time the Pirates gave up 50 or more was 14 games ago during a 58-47 loss to Dickinson Trinity on Jan. 11.

“That’s the one thing we preach to them is defense,” Welder said. “If you play solid defense, you can stay in the game.

“We’re not the most offensively gifted team, and we know that. But if we can limit our turnovers and make sure the other team doesn’t pull away too much, (defense) gives us a chance.”

Both listed at 5-foot-5, the Rohrich cousins sit 1-2 on Kidder County’s scoring sheet. Sadie’s 13.7 points per game and 47.7 shooting percentage is tops, while Morgan has produced 9.4 points per game and has connected on 45-of-115 3-point attempts for 39.1 percent.

The duo also sits 1-2 in the assists department, with Sadie piling up 64 and Morgan contributing 57. Sadie also leads the team in steals, garnering 82 of Kidder County’s 291 team steals.

“I call us balanced. We have Sadie and Morgan who do a lot of the scoring, but there are some games where they’ve struggled and the other girls have had to step up,” Welder said, “and you can’t really key in on one, because the other girls have stepped it up. That’s been nice to see.”

Paige Schmidt stepped up in a big way during last Thursday’s Region 3 title game in Hazelton. The 5-8 sophomore nailed a game-winning 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left in overtime, as the Pirates defeated the South Border Mustangs 45-44.

It was the fourth meeting between the Pirates and the Mustangs this season. The Pirates won three of the four — none of which were decided by more than seven points — but South Border had just defeated Kidder County 46-43 in the District 6 championship game on March 3 in Napoleon.

Paige Schmidt led all scorers in the Region 3 title tilt with 17 points. She is third on the team in scoring (6.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (4.5 rpg).

“We’ve kinda been slowly bringing her along throughout the year,” Welder said of Paige. “She’s one of our taller girls … and she can step outside and cause some mismatches. The last couple of games she’s really been playing great and you can tell the girls trust her.”

The other starting sophomore, 5-7 Rebecca Schmidt, is the team’s top rebounder averaging 7.2 per game, and she’s also recorded 51 steals on the year.

Kidder County and Miss Basketball winner Eli Benz won a state championship back in 2009, while the Pirates finished seventh at state in 2010, Welder’s first year when he shared co-coaching duties.

The Pirates face a strong Shiloh Christian team, but Welder said his girls will come ready to do battle. The Skyhawks have posted a sparkling record of 23-1 and were ranked No. 3 in the final statewide poll.

“We’ve got to be patient on offense, and use the shot clock to our advantage and take good shots,” Welder said. “They’re not a huge team but they rebound the ball well and they score a lot of hustle points. We don’t want to get into a high-scoring game with them. If we do, it’s not going to come out on our end.

“But our girls are ready for the challenge,” Welder added. “You never know what can happen at state.”

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