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BOYS BASKETBALL: Northern Freeze looking for their first berth in tournament

One game away.

That’s been the short history of the Northern Freeze boys co-op basketball team. The Freeze are in a familiar place, as they meet Red Lake in the Minnesota Section 8A championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.

This is the co-op’s fifth season. This will be the team’s third time in the 8A final. The Freeze are still looking for their first berth in the boys state basketball tournament.

“These kids are hungry,” said Freeze coach Zach Green, whose team lost 58-38 to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in last season’s 8A championship game. “We tell them opportunities like this don’t come along too often, and they’ve got a chance for the second year in a row. They just have to take care of business.”

Red Lake and the Freeze aren’t strangers. Northern Freeze won 81-77 when they met in late December. It was a game in which the Freeze had their third-highest point total of the season while also allowing the second-highest point total in a game.

Red Lake (22-7) averages 80.5 points a game compared to the Freeze’s 61.1 average. But the Freeze have a 53.5 defensive average compared to Red Lake’s 69.9 defensive average.

Red Lake has six players averaging more than nine points a game, led by Ryan Holthusen (23.1 ppg) and Trevor Beaulieu (13.7 ppg, more than 80 treys).

“It will be a high-scoring game,” Green said. “They’re quick. They trap, look for steals and get into a running game. You don’t really slow them down. You just have to be patient, look for good shots and try not to get into a shooting contest with them. We are a little longer than they are. We can contest those shots they throw up.”

The Freeze are experienced. Senior 6-foot-6 center Dustin Dahl (14.8 ppg), Devon Binstock (10 ppg) and Steele Spilde (8.7 ppg) started last season, while Cole Dahl (14.6 ppg) was the team’s sixth man.

“We want to get Dustin touches down low,” Green said. “We have the size advantage. If they don’t collapse their defense on him, we go to him. If they do sag, we’ll hit the outside shots.”

Irwin reaches 1,000

Midway-Minto’s Mackenzie Irwin scored the 1,000th point of her career during the District 4 girls basketball tournament. Irwin, a 5-foot-9 junior point guard, averages 14.8 points for the 15-5 M-M team. She’s a fourth-year starter.

“Mackenzie has the ability to score in so many ways,” Midway-Minto coach Scott Lloyd said. “She’s an outstanding 3-point shooter (33 treys this season). But she also has the ability to drive and finish or get to the free throw line. What she does all depends on what the defenses give her.”

Solberg to enter hall

Former North Dakota High School Activities Association assistant secretary Sheryl Solberg is a member of the 2014 class of inductees into the National Federation of State High School Associations High School Hall of Fame.

Solberg was one of the leaders in the development and growth of girls sports programs during her 34 years (1978-2012) as assistant to the executive secretary of the NDHSAA. At the state level, she handled coaches and officials programs for most of the state’s sports. She was involved with several national rules experiments, including rally scoring and the libero position in volleyball and the smaller-size basketball for girls. She also led numerous officiating camps and clinics throughout the country.

The list of inductees also includes Chisholm (Minn.) High School basketball coach Bob McDonald, who is retiring this season after a 59-year coaching career. The 80-year-old McDonald had a 1,012-428 coaching record, including three state titles and 11 state tournament appearances. He is one of only 13 coaches nationally to surpass 1,000 wins.

McDonald also coached track at Chisholm for 50 years, winning a state team title in 2001.