Hot-shooting Squirrels too much for Cardinals

Central Cass scoring 20 points off 20 Carrington turnovers Friday night at the Minot State University Dome might not have been a surprise.

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Carrington senior guard Lexi Page (with ball) is guarded by Central Cass' Rylie Holzer as Carrington girls basketball coach Andy Braaten looks on from the sideline during the semifinals of the state Class B girls basketball tournament at the Minot State University Dome on Friday, March 5, 2021. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Central Cass scoring 20 points off 20 Carrington turnovers Friday night at the Minot State University Dome might not have been a surprise.

The Squirrels burying 8 of 12 from 3-point range, however, arguably was.

Central Cass more than doubled its season average from beyond the arc on semifinal night of the state Class B girls basketball tournament, defeating Carrington 63-51. Top-ranked Central Cass is headed to Saturday's championship where it will face third-ranked Grafton at 8:30 p.m.

"If we can shoot 8-for-12 we're going to win a lot of games," said Central Cass coach Jay Bachman, whose squirrels were shooting 32% from distance entering the tournament. "(Carrington) played an awesome game, so I have to give them a lot of credit. They made us work for every single basket."


Carrington landed the game's first series of blows, with Lexi Page, Kenzie Edland and Haley Wolsky combining to knock down Carrington's first four 3-pointers of the night to stake the Cards to an 18-13 advantage 40 seconds into the second quarter. The Cards shot nearly as well from deep: 7 of 12.

"That's pretty good basketball right there," said Carrington coach Andy Braaten. "Our kids played hard. They just keep battling.

"We've been through so many of these that for these kids, this is another day for them."

But the Squirrels ended the first half strong. Morgan Lee kicked off an 11-2 Central Cass run with a triple to help flip a 23-20 Carrington advantage to 31-25 Squirrels at the break.

Carrington senior forward Hannah Hagel and junior guard Emma Rindy were each carrying a pair of fouls into the half, which Carrington needed to try and navigate. Central Cass sophomore standout Decontee Smith had 11 points and four steals after 16 minutes before finishing with game-highs of 18 and six.

"When we needed a bucket she gave us a bucket; when we needed a steal she got us a steal," Bachman said of Smith. "That's just the kinda player that she is."

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Carrington senior forward Hannah Hagel (35) looks to drive against Central Cass' Kailey McKinnon (12) during semifinal action of the state Class B girls basketball tournament at the Minot State Dome on Friday, March 5, 2021. Michael Savaloja / The Sun


Carrington was able to get back to within three points in third at 33-30 before back-to-back 3-pointers off the hands of Smith and Central Cass' Kailey McKinnon flipped the momentum. McKinnon's triple came courtesy of a Jaylin Cotton steal -- one of 13 Central Cass steals of the night -- and resulted in three big points off the quick change in possession.

"Usually we make 'smart' turnovers and they're not scoring on them," said Hagel, who tied Smith with a game-high 18 points. "But they were scoring off our turnovers and that's what kinda killed us."

"We'd kind of been dodging that bullet for a couple games now," Braaten added. "But overall I'm pleased with our effort. When you play the schedule we have, we're just used to competing hard."

Central Cass went up 10 by the fourth, 49-39, and Carrington was unable to cut into the deficit, possibly running out of gas a tad as shots began to miss the mark. The Cards also converted just 1 of 5 at the foul line in the final frame and 2 of 9 in the game.

Carrington's Sydnie Grager finished with nine points and Edland turned in 10 rebounds. Carrington will play Wilton-Wing, which fell 71-40 to Grafton, tomorrow for third place at 6 p.m.

"Hopefully we've got some gas for tomorrow night," Braaten said. "There's only four teams that can end with a win, so I'm sure we'll have a great effort and try to finish with a win."

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Carrington senior forward Kenzie Edland (21) is defended by Central Cass' Decontee Smith at the Minot State Dome on March 5, 2021. Michael Savaloja / The Sun


The Cardinals had the Squirrels' number for a while prior to the season, cruising to six straight wins over Central Cass dating back to January of 2014 before falling to the state's No. 1-ranked team by 19 points this past January in Casselton. It was part of a schedule that included facing Kindred, Langdon/Edmore/Munich, Velva and Shiloh Christian, not to mention a couple of harrowing games at the Region 3 tournament.

Carrington came back from 17 down to defeat Kidder County in the regional semifinals last week in Jamestown, before surviving double-overtime against Linton/HMB in the title tilt.

"We've played some of the best teams in the state, so we've been here before," Hagel said in anticipation of Saturday's third-place matchup. "I think we have that step up because we have one of the hardest schedules in the state."

Central Cass (24-1) nipped Grafton by two, 55-53, at home on Dec. 19. After placing fourth at state one year ago, the Squirrels' only loss to this point has been a one-point setback hosting Thompson to close the regular season.

"We're going to have to do the same thing we did tonight," Bachman said. "We gotta make 'em play a full game. We can't give them easy buckets and make them play for 94 feet."

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Carrington girls basketball coach Andy Braaten and the Cardinals share a light moment prior to the start of their state Class B semifinal against Central Cass at the Minot State University Dome on Friday, March 5, 2021. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

State Class B Girls Basketball Tournament


At Minot State Dome


Central Cass 63, Carrington 51

CAR 15 10 14 12 -- 51

CC 11 20 16 16 -- 63

CAR -- Hannah Hagel 18, Sydnie Grager 9, Lexi Page 8, Kenzie Edland 7, Emma Rindy 6, Haley Wolsky 3. Totals: 21-48 FG, 7-12 3-pointers (Rindy 2, Page 2, Edland, Hagel), 2-9 FT, 31 Rebounds (Edland 10, Hagel 7), 15 Fouls, 11 Assists (Page 4, Rindy 3. Grager 3), 20 Turnovers, 1 Block (Hagel), 5 Steals (Page 2).

CC -- Decontee Smith 18, Klaire Cotton 11, Kailey McKinnon 11, Rylie Holzer 8, Morgan Lee 7, Victoria Richter 4, Jaylin Cotton 2, Delaney Cotton 2. Totals: 22-46 FG, 8-12 3-pointers (K. Cotton 3, Holzer 2, Smith, McKinnon, Lee), 11-15 FT, 27 Rebounds (J. Cotton 8), 10 Fouls, 12 Assists (Smith 5), 12 Turnovers, 3 Blocks (Smith 2), 13 Steals (Smith 6).

Records: Central Cass 24-1. Carrington 20-6.


Grafton 71, Wilton-Wing 40

WW 13 11 6 10 -- 40

GRA 26 20 16 9 -- 71

WW -- Hailey Quam 13, Kalyssa Schock 12, Kynlee Wolff 6, Jordan Tooke 5, Kiara Johnson 4. Totals: 14-42 FG, 6-14 3-pointers (Schock 4, Tooke, Wolff), 6-12 FT, 23 Rebounds (Quam 5), 12 Fouls, 8 Assists (Johnson 4), 19 Turnovers, 1 Block (Quam), 4 Steals (Quam 2).

GRA -- Carlee Sieben 18, Julia Dusek 12, Walker Demers 11, Cassie Erickson 10, Reagan Hanson 8, Claire Bjorneby 5, Cassie Sieben 3, Ainsley McLain 2, Anna Carignan 2. Totals: 26-58 FG, 9-24 3-pointers (Carlee Sieben 4, Dusek 2, Hanson 2, Erickson), 10-12 FT, 40 Rebounds (Carignan 7), 14 Fouls, 18 Assists (Carlee Sieben 4, Hanson 4), 13 Turnovers, 2 Blocks (Demers, Bjorneby), 13 Steals (Hanson 3, Stephanie Burns 3, Carignan 3), 2 Blocks (Bjorneby, Demers), 13 Steals (Carlee Sieben 4).

Records: Grafton 24-2. Wilton-Wing 21-3.

(Tournament seeding/records in parentheses)

At Minot State Dome


March 4

Game 1: (2) Grafton 65, Glenburn 33

Game 2: Wilton-Wing 47, (3) Kenmare 40

Game 3: (1) Central Cass 58, Hettinger/Scranton 43

Game 4: (4) Carrington 45 (5) Langdon/Edmore/Munich 39

March 5

Game 5: Kenmare 40, Glenburn 27

Game 6: Langdon/Edmore/Munich 51, Hettinger/Scranton 37

Game 7: Grafton 71, Wilton-Wing 40

Game 8: Central Cass 63, Carrington 51

March 6

Seventh place: Glenburn (23-4) vs. Hettinger/Scranton (20-6), noon.

Fifth place: Kenmare (25-1) vs. Langdon/EM (19-7), 2:30 p.m.

Third place: Wilton-Wing (21-3) vs. Carrington (20-6), 6 p.m.

Championship: Grafton (24-2) vs. Central Cass (24-1), 8:30 p.m.

Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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