Tourney Time: Blue Jays to face Mandan in WDA quarterfinals

The Jamestown High School girls and boys basketball teams are slated to travel to the West Region Basketball Tournament on Thursday.

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Jamestown's Noah Meissner (1) soars to the basket away from Mandan's Hudson Sheldon (3) on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, at the Jamestown Civic Center.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — Five years ago, the Jamestown High School boys basketball team ended its regular season with a tilt against Mandan and then about a week later, the squad faced off against the Braves again, in the opening round of the WDA Tournament.

Fast forward five years and JHS head coach Jacoby Lloyd has found himself in almost the exact same situation.

"Every year since I have been here Mandan has been our final game of the regular season and it's happened two times now where we have gone to the WDA tournament and Mandan has been our match-up," Lloyd said. "It's unique because you play those two games within a week of each other. It's a very strange situation to be in."

Jamestown wound up winning that 2018 WDA quarterfinal 70-67 but the real question is, can they do it again?

Lloyd seems to think so.


"Last year we played Minot twice in three days, and this season we played Legacy twice in five days so we've kind of gotten used to making adjustments against opponents on a short term so hopefully that helps us out," Lloyd said.

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Jamestown's Noah Meissner (1) soars to the basket away from Mandan's Hudson Sheldon (3) on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, at the Jamestown Civic Center.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

"We are playing a little bit more consistently from an offensive standpoint," he said. "We are sharing the basketball a lot better. Defensively — I feel like we can always get better at playing defense as a team and individually but I feel like we are taking the steps in the right direction and I'm pretty happy with how we competed the last two weeks."

The Blue Jays dominated 11th-seeded Watford City 102-54 in the WDA play-in game to punch their ticket to their sixth-consecutive West Region Tournament. The Jays, the tournament's sixth-seed finished out the conference season with a record of 10-10 while overall they went 12-10 throughout their 22 games played.

One of Jamestown's most impressive wins came against Mandan on Feb. 24. The squad overcame a 15-point deficit to win the game 83-82. The Jays and Braves will face off at 8:15 p.m. on Thursday in the main arena of the Bismarck Events Center.

"We've learned how to come back and chip away at those big leads," Lloyd said. "I didn't sense any kind of panic from the kids that were on the bench or the kids who were in the game. They just kept on playing. You see a sophomore like Noah Meissner step up and make two free throws to win the game and it shows that he can focus on the moment at hand and not make the moment bigger than it needs to be.

"Sports can't be a roller coaster of emotions. You can't let the highs get too high or the lows get too low or else you will come crashing down. I think we've grown up a lot this season from that standpoint."

Keeping a cool head and steady hand this weekend will be necessary, and in Lloyd's eyes, entirely possible for his team of juniors and sophomores.

"A lot of them gained that experience last year which is really, really nice to have, but yes, we are still a young team," Lloyd said. "Even though we don't have nearly as many seniors as before, all three of our seniors play significant minutes. They were freshmen when we won that state championship so they've been around.


"That tradition of how to play and how to carry yourself should still be there," he said. "It's really about minimizing the mistakes that you have."

Mason Lunzman, Caydann Cox and Payton Hochhalter — the Jays' three seniors — have all played more than 470 minutes worth of game time this winter. Lunzman is 85.4% from the stripe and is shooting more than 34% from beyond the arc.

Cox is the Jays' leading rebounder with 153 total boards. He has also made 14 blocks.

Mandan, the third seed, ended the year at 14-6. Century and Minot, the tournament's No. 1 and 2 seeds, were the only two teams to defeat the Braves by more than seven points.

While Hochhalter missed out on four games due to injury, he is still the team's second-leading rebounder with 108. He is the team's fifth-leading scorer with 213 points and the Jays at +64 when he's out on the floor.

Second-year team members Ryan Larson and Dalton Lamp fill in around the seniors. The duo has combined for a whopping 536 points.

It's a tough crew but at WDAs every team is a tough crew.

"Mandan was one of the most consistent teams in the WDA this year at taking care of the basketball, rebounding and holding teams to a low field goal percentage," Lloyd said. "That's where they are going to hang their hat because that is what has made them successful this year.


"What we'll be working on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is creating shots and getting opportunities that we like offensively," he said. "We also will work on taking care of the basketball at a higher rate than we have been and rebounding at a much higher rate. If we can do those three things, no matter who we'd face, I like where we would be sitting."

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Jamestown's Payton Hochhalter arcs one from the three-point line Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, against Watford City.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Blue Jay girls enter WDAs as fifth-seed, will play Legacy Thursday

Head girls basketball coach Andy Skunberg and his crew are also set to see a familiar face at WDAs.

"I don't even know how many years in a row we've played Legacy," Skunberg said. "They got us twice in the regular season and we kind of closed the gap a little bit the last one.

The Blue Jays finished out the year with a three-game winning streak that put their conference record at 10-10 while overall the Jays were 11-10 through 21 games. Legacy topped Jamestown twice in the last month. While the Sabers won 73-55 on the Jays' home court, the Jays gave the four-seed a battle in Bismarck and came up just four points short of a victory.

Jamestown might be tagged as the tournament's five seed but their record did them dirty. The Jays lost all six games played from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14 but four of them were decided by three or fewer points.

Jamestown has got one of the most experienced rosters in the West Region this season. This weekend will mark the team's third consecutive trip to the WDA tournament. Skunberg has got eight seniors on his roster, six of which have been contributing members since the 2020-21 season.

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Jamestown's Haylie Hakanson looks to the basket through the arms of Mandan's McKenna Johnson (35) on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, at the Jamestown Civic Center.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Senior Ella Falk just broke two school records in last Friday's game against Mandan. The senior set a new single-game scoring record of 41 points. Falk also set the new school record for the most 3-pointers made in a game with nine.


Falk is averaging 18.4 points per game. She is credited with 13 blocks and has tabulated just 26 fouls in her 21 games played.

Breanna Oettle had a breakout tournament her sophomore season but was forced to sit last year due to an ACL tear. Oettle is averaging 10.5 points per game and is the team's second-best free-throw shooter. As of Feb. 28, Oettle is 78.6% from the line.

Katie Falk is also regularly in the double figures for the Jays putting up an average of 11.4 points per game. She is the team's top rebounder with 203 boards and has dished out 52 assists.

The numbers are looking good for Skunberg and company but the head coach isn't counting his chickens before they hatch.

"We'll see what happens," Skunberg said of the tournament. "We've got a week to prepare for it."

Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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