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TRUST IN TEAM: Collective effort leads E-K-M to state

KULM, N.D.--Tabitha Kinzler understands the importance of everyone doing their part. Coming off the bench for Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier's girls basketball team, the senior guard never knows exactly when she'll be needed or for how long. But wheneve...

E-K-M's starting five of (front row, l-r) Kaitlyn Schiele, Allison Giesler, Katie Entzi, Taylor Mathern and Tallie Hanson, and the rest of the Rebels' team, begin the state tournament today in Grand Forks facing the Kindred Vikings. John M. Steiner / The Sun
E-K-M's starting five of (front row, l-r) Kaitlyn Schiele, Allison Giesler, Katie Entzi, Taylor Mathern and Tallie Hanson, and the rest of the Rebels' team, begin the state tournament today in Grand Forks facing the Kindred Vikings. John M. Steiner / The Sun

KULM, N.D.-Tabitha Kinzler understands the importance of everyone doing their part.

Coming off the bench for Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier's girls basketball team, the senior guard never knows exactly when she'll be needed or for how long.

But whenever coach Megan Cleveland has called for No. 11 this season, Kinzler has been ready to roll.

The Class B state girls basketball tournament begins today at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. E-K-M plays Kindred at 1 p.m.

"If somebody gets into foul trouble, or we need help, I just try to step in and take on that role," Kinzler said. "We've been really good this year like that, just one after another."

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Good teams tend to rely on a collective effort, and that sums up the Rebels' 19-win season and the co-op's first trip to state in nearly 25 years. E-K-M's Katie Entzi is the focal point, but big postseason performances around the 6-foot sophomore have fueled the success.

Senior starting guard Allison Giesler has buried nine 3-pointers since the start of the District 5 tournament. Junior starting forward Kaitlyn Schiele has averaged 14 points a night, nearly five better than her season average.

In the team's 51-42 overtime victory against Carrington in the Region 3 championship game, junior starting guard Tallie Hanson erupted for 22 points. Hanson's per-game scoring average is just under nine.

"We've never had selfish players, but it's so much more of a team dynamic this season," coach Cleveland said. "(Entzi) knows she's going to get doubled a lot of the time. So she knows she's got to kick it out and these girls have stepped up and hit shots."

The biggest so far came from Schiele. Her 3-pointer with three-tenths of a second left in regulation sent the region title tilt into overtime.

"It's still hitting me," Schiele said. "Just a big moment."

Cleveland has been coach of the Rebels for four seasons, and each year has been better than the last. Her first year ended with just seven wins to 15 losses, while last winter the Rebels won 20 games before losing to Carrington in the Region 3 championship game.

"My freshman year we lost games by 50 points," Giesler said. "To watch us improve year after year has been absolutely amazing, and I'm glad I'm along for the ride."

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"They've taken that next step every single year, and that's only come from hard work," Cleveland added. "It hasn't been a fluke. They very much deserve to be here."

Kindred, and Region 1 senior athlete of the year Mikayla Reinke, present a stiff challenge for the Rebels today. The Vikings (23-0) are averaging 60 points per game and are one of two undefeated teams in the state.

But E-K-M has the height advantage with Entzi.

"We're planning on pounding it inside, and if they double me I'll kick it out to everyone else," said Entzi, who averages 16 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest. "We're kind of the underdogs, so it'd be kinda cool if we came out and beat them."

The Edgeley Rangers finished eighth at the Class B state girls basketball tournament in 1993, the last time a community in the co-op was represented in the tournament. Marion-Montpelier placed second in 1988, marking the best state tournament finish in seven prior appearances by co-op schools.

"It's been truly amazing," said Kinzler, as she and Giesler prepare to play their final games this weekend. "When we were younger we always thought we'd make it to state. But in our senior year, it's a good way to go out."

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Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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