'Truly satisfied': Kiara Jangula reflects on EKM hoops career
Kiara Jangula, a senior for the Edgeley/KM girls basketball team, finished up her prep hoops career last weekend at the Class B State Tournament.
EDGELEY, N.D. — Kiara Jangula's love for basketball began in a basement in rural North Dakota.
"I vividly remember when I was 4 years old and my dad had bought me a 4-foot basketball hoop that came with a little basketball that we put in the basement," said Jangula, a senior at Edgeley/Kulm-Montpelier. "That is where I first learned how to play the game — that was where I learned how to dribble and shoot and do all the simple things."
What began in a basement 14 years ago came to its culmination at the 2023 Class B Girls State Basketball Tournament a couple of weeks ago.
Jangula and the EKM girls basketball team capped off the 2023 season with a fifth-place finish at the state tourney. This season marked the Rebels' first trip to the championship weekend since the 2017 season, and it's not an exaggeration to say it was blood, sweat and tears that got them there.
"I don’t think I’ve ever put in more time into the sport in my life than this year," Jangula said. "During the spring, after track practice and track meets, I would stay for a couple hours to shoot. It didn’t matter if we got off from practice at 4:30 p.m. in Edgeley or if we were getting back from a track meet at 11 p.m. from Rugby.
"I don’t have access to keys to the school and the ballroom, which has the switches for the lights to the gym as well as the balls, so my only way in was right after meets or practice where I could get let in by a coach," she said. "I would always keep a basketball hidden in our gym teacher’s room and turn on the dim lights in the gym that were outside of the ballroom. Shooting in the dark, alone in the school with my music blaring was therapeutic. The fact that no one knew I was in there striving to improve myself by any means possible gave me a sense of pure satisfaction."
While Jangula's late-night presence at the school gym might have been a so-called secret, her love for the game has been obvious ever since she began playing in her basement.
"Kiara loves basketball — that's just her thing," EKM head coach Rory Entzi said. "She shoots all of the time. Her energy is unreal, she never quits. She's always positive, she's always cheering on her teammates — if you came to practice — you would hear her yelling the whole practice. It's just constant. She never does a drill half speed, that will be greatly missed."
After the 2022 track and field season concluded, Jangula went on to create what she called her "ideal summer schedule."
A typical day would include waking up at 6 a.m., going to weightlifting for an hour, shooting after for a couple more hours, head back home to the farm to work until 6 p.m., then spend some time with her family or friends before she headed back to the gym for the night where she spent as much time as she felt she needed.
In total, Jangula spent four to five hours a day shooting a basketball during the summer and while she toned it back slightly when school picked up, it wasn't by much.
"Once school started, I’d shoot almost every day that I could after school," Jangula said. "During the fall, I would spend two hours a day shooting. Then once the season started, it was around two to three hours a day depending on how long I stayed after (practice) to make my 10 free throws in a row with Mataeya (Mathern) and put up extra shots."
All the time she put into the gym certainly wasn't wasted.
Entzi said his squad played 35 games last summer which helped to carry them to a regular season record of 13-5. The Rebels went 3-0 in the District 5 tournament then managed to kick off the Region 3 tournament with a pair of wins to send them to the Region 3 championship game.
"I will admit, I was really nervous in the region championship, probably the most nervous I’ve been for a game all season," Jangula said. "I just believed that we were going to pull through. While I didn’t play the way I wanted to during the championship, my amazing teammates came through. Mataeya had a stellar night with 30 points, and I was super proud of her. Libby (Mathern) was able to score some big points too, and everyone’s defense really made a difference in winning that game."
The Rebels beat Linton/HMB 41-38 in the Region 3 championship.
"Once the buzzer went off, my memory gets kind of foggy," Jangula said. "On film, you can see me jump around and scream, but I can’t really remember it. People stormed the court, and I think the wave of human beings suddenly flying into my presence caused me to go into some kind of shock. My body went numb.
"I hugged different people and remember grabbing them so tight because I couldn’t feel my legs or my face or anything," she said. "It was like time slowed down. I remember crying because I couldn’t believe what had just happened, then shaking hands, and then stumbling to the bench and falling into one of the chairs before the awards ceremony, still feeling numb. I was able to notice the number of fans in the building for the first time when I looked up and around and the aftermath on the court of yellow and black streamers and confetti scattered everywhere. It was pure ecstasy — it was breathtaking."
After the team's dance party in one of the Jamestown Civic Center locker rooms, Jangula and the rest of the squad packed and loaded up the bus and headed back to Edgeley to prepare for Thompson.
"Preparing for state felt so good," Jangula said. "The fact that we were still practicing while other teams were at home was one of the most satisfying feelings ever.
"Still, we were focused and weren’t going to be intimidated by the big stage — this was the opportunity we had dreamed of and had been chasing pretty much our whole high school careers," she said. "I wanted to be able to play my best basketball yet, and I’d say collectively as a team we were all able to amp up on the aggression and improve on shooting."
The Rebels went 2-1 at the tournament. The squad lost to Thompson 66-43 then swung around and got a 51-47 win over Kenmare-Bowbells pinning them against Langdon/AEM in the fifth-place game.
"Before our last game, I was saying my pregame rosary and I begged God to let me leave it all out on the floor, and that no matter what happened after the game, that I would have no regrets whatsoever," Jangula said. "I can confidently say that my prayer was answered, and in the end, I truly was satisfied."
Edgeley/KM was a buzz saw in the fifth-place game, topping the Cardinals 63-37.
It was pretty much the perfect way for Jangula to end her time as a Rebel.
"I could write coach Entzi, my team and the entire community a 10-page essay for how they’ve greatly aided in my journey, and it probably wouldn’t be enough," Jangula said. "I don’t even know where to start giving credit. I really wouldn’t want to play for anyone else rather than Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier.
"To my teammates, I never would want anyone else to play with," she said. "I love each and every one of them individually and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Coach Entzi will probably never be able to fully understand the impact he has made on my life. I looked up to him ever since I was a little girl. You will never find a coach as great as Rory Entzi. I thank God so much for giving me these people. I never deserved any of this."