Edgeley champions reminisce at Rebels' state send-off

Class B boys basketball has changed in numerous ways over the last 31 years.

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Doug Heim, Grant Mathern and Eric Buckeye, standing from left, address the crowd assembled for a pep rally at Edgeley High School on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The three were players on the 1990 Edgeley Rangers team that won the state Class B boys basketball tournament. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

EDGELEY, N.D. -- Class B boys basketball has changed in numerous ways over the last 31 years.

Shot clocks now regulate offenses, most rural teams are part of a multi-school co-op, and then there are the fashion trends at the state 'B' tournament.

Who can forget the Zubaz pants craze of the early 1990s?

"I'll always remember our crowd and how it kinda brought the community together," said Eric Buckeye, a junior all-state standout on the 1990 Edgeley Rangers basketball team. "People that never came to a basketball game before were there and they had their faces painted, and they were wearing Zubaz pants. It was just nuts.

"I remember watching in the crowd and they were having such a good time. It was a blast."


Buckeye and former Rangers teammates Grant Mathern and Doug Heim were in attendance for Wednesday's pep rally at Edgeley High School, as the Region 3 champion Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier Rebels prepared to depart for this week's state Class B tournament in Minot.

Edgeley hasn't been to the tournament since winning it all in Minot in 1990, a tournament in which the Rangers turned away Ray, Northwood, and Dunseith in order. Buckeye, who addressed those assembled Wednesday, also didn't squander an open look at the basket.

"The reason we let Eric do all the talking is because he did all the shooting," Mathern laughed. "But it was kinda neat because in the Hoopster magazine Edgeley was No. 1 and Dunseith was No. 2 in that preseason poll."

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A storefront on main street in Edgeley displays its support for the state-bound Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier boys basketball team on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

The Rangers overcame a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes on championship night three decades ago to prove the prediction correct. Edgeley wound up beating Dunseith 78-75, overcoming a Dragons' team coached by Gene LaFromboise and led by Danny Peltier, who'd be a Mr. Basketball finalist the following year.

"They were a run-and-gun team. All I remember is their defense," Buckeye said. "I said I swore I think the coach came out and guarded me for a while because there must have been six guys on me at one time."

Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier hasn't scored 78 points all season, albeit scoring 77 twice. Shutdown defense is more of the current team's style, locking opponents to under 44 points on average en route to 22 wins and counting.


The Rebels face Rugby, the champion of Region 6, in Thursday's 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal at the Minot State University Dome.

"I would say this team is probably a little more athletic than our team," Buckeye said. "We were just a bunch of farm kids. We never lifted a weight -- we didn't know what the weight room was -- we just liked playing basketball."

"This team would probably whoop us," Heim chuckled.

Buckeye's son, Jaxon, is a sophomore on the current team, which boasts 6-foot-6 standout Alex Huber, another link to the '90 team. Huber is the son of EKM assistant coach Bryan Huber who was a sophomore on the Rangers' championship squad.

As Class B teams go, the family connections certainly don't end there. Mathern's son, Cale, was a senior on last year's EKM Region 3 championship team that missed out on attending a state tournament due to its cancellation because of COVID-19.

"I just think back to when those kids were third graders, second graders," Mathern said. "Eric, Bryan, and I, we all had sons that age and we remembered what it was like to play in a state tournament. We wanted them to experience it and that was our goal.

"The time and effort those kids have put in from third grade to now has really got them where they are at."


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The Edgeley/Kulm/Montpelier boys basketball team is escorted out of Edgeley en route to the state Class B tournament in Minot on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

The current group of EKM seniors have also had plenty of motivation, watching the Rebels reach the Region 3 title game as seventh-graders in 2016. EKM lost to Strasburg/Zeeland and Mr. Basketball finalist Brody Nieuwsma in the regional final that year, before reaching the title game again in 2018 and falling to Carrington.

The Rangers had a string of similar success, winning the region and placing seventh at state in 1989, before winning the state championship in '90 and falling in the '92 region championship game to Napoleon. EKM topped Strasburg/Zeeland last season to mark 30 years between region titles for Edgeley.

"Sitting here today, I haven't thought about all that stuff in years and that got my heart kinda pumping," Heim said of Wednesday's team send-off festivities. "It brings that drive or that push. Our team, we were aggressive. We got after it, even in practices."

"It's 31 years ago and it feels like it was yesterday," Buckeye added. "I remember grabbing our bags, getting on the bus ... everything about it."

EKM is entering the state tournament having just put up its best defensive game of the season. The Rebels held Linton/HMB and all-state guard Lucas Schumacher to 28 total points at the Jamestown Civic Center last week, toppling the Lions 46-28 to win a second consecutive region crown.

"The difference was is this team is a team, and that's what gonna make them a lethal contender at state," Heim said.

The former Rangers, who will have their chance to don Zubaz in the crowd this week, are hoping it parlays into a second banner like the one that currently hangs in the Edgeley gymnasium.


"It's gonna be fun to watch," Buckeye said. "It'll bring back a lot of memories."



(Tournament seeding and overall records in parentheses)

March 18

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.

March 19

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.

March 20

Seventh place: Loser G5 vs. Loser G6, noon


Fifth place: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 2:30 p.m.

Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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