EDGELEY, N.D. -- Alex Huber had a few distractions from schoolwork Wednesday morning at Edgeley High School.
A planned pep rally to honor the first state-bound boys basketball team the school's produced in more than three decades can cloud a senior's concentration.
"Honestly, I haven't done much focusing on school, which probably isn't the best thing to say," Huber laughed. "But our school is really good about kinda knowing this is a big deal for all of us. They're not easing, but they're lenient."
Huber and Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier will be taking on Rugby in the Class B state tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The team departed Wednesday following the 10 a.m. pep rally and stopped in Bismarck for a shootaround practice at Bismarck Legacy High School.
Edgeley High School was last represented at the state class 'B' in 1990 when the Edgeley Rangers brought home a state championship.
Memories of watching the EKM Rebels reach the Region 3 title game at the Jamestown Civic Center in 2016 -- fueled by former heroes like Connor Entzi and Tanner Zahn -- helped to crystalize a belief in Huber and his classmates that they could be the ones to someday lead the Rebels back to state.
"The whole team that's now the team was there and we were sitting together," Huber recalled. "Me and (EKM senior guard) Paxton (Mathern) have been playing together since like the second grade and both of us knew that's where we wanted to be when we were seniors, back on that court."
And, the current Rebels had to win on that floor twice to realize their dream, with last year's Region 3 championship victory over Strasburg/Zeeland becoming the season's final game due to COVID-19. But EKM persevered through an even stronger region field this winter, culminating with a 46-28 victory over Linton/HMB last Thursday in Jamestown.
The Rebels (22-2) were ranked as high as No. 2 in the statewide media poll this season and were No. 4 in the final ranking.
"It all started pretty much last year after we won the region championship," Mathern said. "Came in next day and found out we weren't going to be able to go to state and kinda took it personal, I guess. We were ranked ... and we said it doesn't mean anything because we still have to get out of our district and out of our region."
Which wasn't an easy task.
The Rebels had a 12-game winning streak snapped by LaMoure/Litchville-Marion in the District 5 tournament semifinals, meaning EKM would have to come through a region qualifier.
The Rebels defeated Griggs-Midkota to earn District 5's No. 3 seed for regionals, setting up games -- and wins -- over both Kidder County and Oakes before getting to the Lions.
The Oakes game was a thriller. With the game tied at 61-61 in the final 10 seconds of regulation, Huber pulled in a missed free throw shot by Oakes' Garret Meehl and traveled, giving the ball right back to the Tornadoes with six seconds remaining.
Oakes would fail to convert, however, and the Rebels survived in overtime, 69-68.
"I really didn't want to think about when I had that travel," said Huber, reflecting on if the Rebels would've lost. "I was like, there's no way that just happened, but I knew that we just needed to get to overtime."
EKM suffocated ninth-ranked Linton/HMB defensively in the title game, holding the Lions to 28 points on 11-for-47 shooting and 2 of 5 at the foul line. Edgeley senior Jorgen Paulson drew the task of guarding the Lions' Schumacher, holding the all-state talent to nine points.
That performance is on the radar of the Rugby Panthers and head coach Mike Santjer.
"It's gonna push me more, I think," Paulson said. "It's gonna make me want to work harder and do more than what I already can do. I think we just gotta play our game, and we definitely have to play good defense on them because they are a very good offensive team."
"They're big and they're athletic," Huber added of the Panthers. "I think if we come out and play tough defense the score will take care of itself, but it's gonna be a battle. They are the best 18-7 team in the state."
EKM head boys basketball coach Kevin Strobel, who's guided the Rebels to 105 victories dating back to the program's pivotal 2016 season, said the team is ready.
"It wasn't real hard to get these guys to come into the gym and work hard every day in practice. This truly is a team that we're taking up to Minot," Strobel said. "I think it really shows just how much it means when you see the support from all the communities, like today with that pep rally. It just shows what small Class B basketball actually is.
"I just tip my hat to all three communities -- to all the fans -- for backing us and I think we're ready to go."
Homework will wait until next week for EKM seniors Huber, Mathern, Paulson, Lucas Rich, Chayse Entzi, and the rest of the state-bound Rebels. Somebody turn out the lights, EKM is out the door for the Magic City.
"It's been fun so far, and it's only going to get more fun," Mathern said. "Excited to go play some basketball at Minot."
STATE CLASS B BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
AT MINOT STATE DOME
(Tournament seeding and overall records in parentheses)
G1: (2) Grafton (22-2) vs. Powers Lake (22-2), noon
G2: (3) EKM (22-2) vs. Rugby (18-7), 2:30 p.m.
G3: (1) FW/Minn. (23-1) vs. Shiloh Christian (15-9), 6:30 p.m.
G4: (4) Dickinson Trinity (21-3) vs. (5) Kindred (18-4), 9 p.m.
G5: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2, noon.
G6: Loser G3 vs. Loser G4, 2:30 p.m.
G7: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 6:30 p.m.
G8: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, 9 p.m.
Seventh place: Loser G5 vs. Loser G6, noon
Fifth place: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 2:30 p.m.
Third place: Loser G7 vs. Loser G8, 6 p.m.
Championship: Winner G7 vs. Winner G8, 8:30 p.m.
THURSDAY'S REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS
Kindred 65, Oak Grove 51
Grafton 46, North Border 40
Four Winds/Minn. 57, Langdon/EM 39
Shiloh Christian 66, Flasher 56
Rugby 58, Bottineau 45
Dickinson Trinity 61, Beulah 53
Powers Lake 48, White Shield 34