Success has taken Keenan Konschak to a place he’d rather not be.
Hatton-Northwood makes its first appearance this week in the weekly North Dakota Class B boys high school basketball poll. The Konschak-coached Thunder jumped from unranked into the No. 7 spot in the poll.
“I know polls don’t mean a lot,’’ Konschak said. “But teams prepare for you differently if you’re in the polls. I like to be underestimated.’’
The Thunder played themselves out from under the radar.
Last week, they defeated two ranked teams. Hatton-Northwood beat then-No. 2 Hillsboro-Central Valley 53-52, handing the Burros their first loss, and defeated No. 6 Langdon-Edmore-Munich 68-58. That improved the Thunder record to 4-2.
“It was a good week for us,’’ said Konschak, but also saying it wasn’t a surprising week. “We feel we can defeat anybody in the state. It starts with good defense. That’s what we focus on and we’ve been playing it pretty well.’’’
Hatton-Northwood’s opponents this season brought an overall 33-7 record into the week. Its two losses have been to unbeatens Four Winds-Minnewaukan and Enderlin, who are first and third, respectively, in this week’s state poll.
“We’ve played a gauntlet so far,’’ said Konschak, whose team has had only one home game.
The success is something the Thunder anticipated. Hatton-Northwood was 17-8 last season, finishing fourth in the Region 2 tournament. That team didn’t have a senior in its starting lineup.
None of Hatton-Northwood’s first six opponents reached its season scoring average against the Thunder.
“We’ve limited teams’ big runs,’’ senior Avery Thorsgard said. “Everyone helps the next person on defense. Offensive shootouts are fun. Players like to score points. But our coaches aren’t quite as happy when we get in those kinds of games. They like defensive battles.’’
That defensive success also is in part because of Hatton-Northwood’s offensive style. The Thunder don’t play helter skelter basketball. The pace is patient.
“I think we can frustrate teams with our pace,’’ Konschak said. “We try to slow the game down. We did try to run more in our first game and that didn’t work well. If we can force a turnover, we’ll try to fast break. Otherwise, we walk it down court and look inside for mismatches.
“We do have good shooters, but we aren’t shooting very well. That might have something to do with the caliber of the competition we’ve been playing.’’
Thorsgard is part of a very balanced offense.
Colton Konschak paces the team with a 13.3 scoring average. He’s followed closely by Thorsgard (11.7 ppg), Alex Wolfe (10.8 ppg) and Kelby Azure (10.8 ppg), with Parker Vaagene (6.8 ppg) rounding out the starting lineup. Brett Foss (3.7 ppg) and Carter Myron (2.2 ppg) are top reserves.
All seven players are multi-sport athletes. The majority have gained all-region honors in at least one sport, including Konschak and Thorsgard in basketball last season.
“They’re all athletes first,’’ Keenan Konschak said. “They all play two or three sports. Basketball maybe isn’t the favorite sport for all of them. But they love to compete.’’
The Thunder have more than held their own competing against some of the best teams in North Dakota Class B basketball this season. The result has been a spot in the state rankings.
“It’s not really a big deal,’’ Thorsgard said of the poll. “It shows that our hard work has paid off. But in the end what matters is who shows up and plays in the games.
“State rankings don’t mean much. But they are cool to look at.’’