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BIRDS FLY: Cardinals soaring to state tourney

Carrington sophomore Seth Nelson throws down a dunk prior to the Cardinals' Tuesday practice for the upcoming state Class B boys basketball tournament in Bismarck. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
The sixth-ranked Carrington boys basketball team faces fourth-ranked Stanley on Thursday in the Class B state tournament quarterfinals at the Bismarck Events Center. John M. Steiner / The Sun 2 / 2

CARRINGTON, N.D.—Seth Nelson's first attempt at dunking a basketball during high school competition wasn't a total disaster.

The bucket counted, even though—as Nelson put it—he got "rim-stuffed" pretty badly.

"It ended up going in, somehow," said the 6-foot-3 Carrington sophomore, as he explained the awkward throw down that occurred during an eight-point loss to Thompson in Carrington back on Dec. 21. "Everybody had been bugging me here, so I had to take the chance (again) the first time I saw it."

Dunk attempt No. 2 last Friday, March 9, inside University of Jamestown's Harold Newman Arena was totally legit. Nelson swooped in from the left baseline and slammed the ball through the cylinder with his right hand, kicking off a 19-8 run used to defeat Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier 64-49 in the championship game of the Region 3 tournament.

Carrington (22-2) now turns its attention to a team known throughout the state to be living life above the rim. The Cardinals face the Stanley Blue Jays in the quarterfinals of the state Class B basketball tournament on Thursday at 8:15 p.m. in Bismarck.

Led by 6-4 senior Wyatt Hanson (20.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.7 apg) and 6-6 senior Kaedyn Hanson (12.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg), the Hanson cousins have put together quite the highlight reel of slam dunks as back-to-back champions of Region 8. The fourth-ranked Blue Jays (22-2) placed seventh at the state tournament last season.

"They're dunk city, and we'll probably play a little more below the rim," said Carrington coach Tim Ranum. "Wyatt Hanson is probably the best player in the state. We'll have a tough time guarding them, but I also think they're going to have a tough time guarding us."

Carrington has the the ability to play physical with the likes of Nelson (12.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg), junior starting forward Trey Rosenau (6.1 rpg) and junior Drew Page off the bench. But it can also push the ball which the Cardinals feel they can accomplish against the Blue Jays.

"Stanley's big, but I think we're faster than they are," said senior guard Jayden Shipman. "So we might be able to run a little bit on them and get it done that way."

Shipman played a key role down the stretch in last week's regional championship. After E-K-M got within four points of the lead with 5 minutes to play, Nelson's dunk was followed by a Shipman 3-pointer and the Carrington momentum from there overwhelmed to the finish.

Carrington's top offensive threats, seniors guards Garrett Bickett (19.8 ppg) and Kolton Vetter (11.6 ppg), should see plenty of defenders this week, meaning shots like the one Shipman nailed could continue to play huge. Bickett is a University of Jamestown men's basketball recruit, while Vetter will be playing basketball next winter at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.

"That was a little bit of adrenaline, and I was feeling it," said Shipman, who is a Valley City State University baseball commit. "It was a fun game."

Carrington will be playing in its eighth state tournament, and first since winning a state championship in 2010—back when Bickett and the seniors were in fourth grade.

"I probably remember every bit of it," said Bickett, the Region 3 senior athlete of the year. "It was just the best experience ever, and getting back there feels great.

"We're jacked up and ready to go."

Carrington is undefeated in 2018, carrying a 19-game winning streak into the tournament. The road to another title won't be easy, as defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Hillsboro-Central Valley (23-1) is also in Carrington's half of the bracket.

But after falling in last year's Region 3 championship game and being forced to watch the state tournament on television, the Cardinals plan on playing with a sense of purpose starting against Stanley.

"It's something that we've worked the better part of two years for, and it's probably been on a lot of guys' minds for awhile," Ranum said. "It's kinda neat to realize something you've worked for your entire career. We're excited and we're looking forward to the opportunity."

Class B Boys Basketball State Tournament

At Bismarck Event Center

Thursday's quarterfinals

Game 1: (2) St. John (23-1) vs. (7) Wyndmere-Lidgerwood (21-2), 1 p.m.

Game 2: (5) Bishop Ryan (23-2) vs. Shiloh Christian (19-5), 2:45 p.m.

Game 3: (1) Hillsboro-CV (23-1) vs. (RV) Beulah (20-4), 6:30 p.m.

Game 4: (4) Stanley (22-2) vs. (6) Carrington (22-2), 8:15 p.m.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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