Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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RENO, Nev.—Since UND joined the 12-member Big Sky Conference in 2012, the Fighting Hawks have shared two regular-season league titles—in 2014 and 2017. No other league team has won or shared more titles in past six seasons. Although UND's time in the Big Sky has been brief, the Hawks have made an impact. Today, however, UND's run at a second postseason title will be extremely difficult as the Hawks are seeded No. 10. They will meet No. 7 seed Montana State at 7:35 p.m. The teams split this season, each winning on their home floor.
North Dakota is set to leave the Big Sky Conference at the end of season to become a Summit League member. The Fighting Hawks have had some great times as a Big Sky Conference member. The 2014 league title and trip to the NCAA Tournament stands the tallest of those memories. The last regularly scheduled Big Sky basketball game at UND was held Friday afternoon at The Betty. However, that game won't be one of the fond Big Sky memories for UND as Portland State led from start to finish in downing the Fighting Hawks 80-61 before 1,601 fans at The Betty.
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—It took a while but UND finally notched a road win in the Big Sky Conference this season. Conner Avants scored a career-high 26 points as the Fighting Hawks downed Sacramento State 90-73 on Thursday night. Avants was one of five UND players in double figures. Geno Crandall followed with 19 points, while Cortez Seales added 15. Reserves Billy Brown and Kienan Walter each finished with 12. UND improved to 6-11 in the Big Sky and 11-18 overall while Sacramento State dropped to 3-14 and 6-24.
Boys hockey 6 Minn. Section 8A In Warroad, Thursday Championship Thief River Falls 4, EGF Senior High 0 First period—1. Parker Lane PP (Kaleb Flaagen, Keaden Kempert) 12:37 Second period—2. Brady Anderson (Aaron Myers) 1:20 Third period—3. Anderson PP empty-net (Tucker Skime, Myers) 10:47; 4. Anderson 12:37 Goalie saves—TRF: Nick Corneliusen 32; EGF: Carter Krier 15 Girls basketball 6 Minn. Section 8AA tournament Thursday's first round
WARROAD, Minn.—East Grand Forks Senior High had defeated Thief River Falls twice this season. But the Prowlers turned the tables in the third meeting, beating Senior High 4-0 on Thursday in the title game of the Minnesota Section 8A boys hockey tournament. The win sends Thief River Falls to next week's state Class A tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Thief River Falls improved to 16-10-2 while the Green Wave closed out at 15-11-2.
Boys basketball Red River 80, Fargo North 70, OT: Cameron Blazek sent Grand Forks Red River to the bench in disbelief. Blazek hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give Fargo North, which saw it's double-digit lead vanish over the second half, new life. But Red River remained resilient. The No. 6-seeded Roughriders outscored the No. 7-seeded Spartans 13-3 in overtime to win in East Region tournament consolation play Friday. The Roughriders will play in a state-qualifying game on Saturday against Fargo Davies.
At this time of the season, it's just better if a team moves on. With postseason play a week away, there isn't much sense on dwelling long on a win or a loss. In UND's case, the Fighting Hawks won't spend much time dissecting their 72-66 loss to Sacramento State on Thursday night before 1,552 fans at The Betty. UND dropped to 5-12 in the Big Sky Conference and 12-16 overall while Sacramento State—down to eight players because of injuries—improved to 5-12 and 7-21.
UND has won five Big Sky Conference games this season in 16 attempts. Three of those wins, however, have come against league-leading Northern Colorado, Weber State and Eastern Washington. Weber and Eastern Washington are in a tie for third place. On the surface, UND's 5-11 Big Sky record and 12-15 overall mark may not be that impressive as the Fighting Hawks close out their regular season at home tonight against Sacramento State and Friday against Portland State.
Saturday began with UND's lone senior, 6-foot-9 Dale Jones, suffering from back spasms. He wouldn't be able to play his final home game with his teammates. Saturday ended with UND's 79-66 loss against Northern Colorado before 1,895 fans at The Betty, a game in which the Fighting Hawks failed to make a 3-pointer. For the first time in the program's Division I era, UND was held scoreless from beyond the arc.
Boys hockey Jamestown 4, Grafton-Park River 2: Jamestown scored the first two goals en route to its win over Grafton-Park River on Friday in the consolation round of the North Dakota state boys hockey tournament. Devin Hoffmann and Jace Thompson scored for the Blue Jays before Grafton-Park River picked up the next two goals from Sam Keeley and Taylan Sangrait. Jamestown's Alex Senf. an eighth-grader, got the game-winner at 16:10 of the third period. Bennett Carter came up with 22 saves in goal for Grafton-Park River.