Area high school games to watch this week: Young Thunder are long on experience
First-time tournament pressure was no problem for Kyle Pederson. As a freshman, playing in the quarterfinal round game of the District 3 boys high school basketball tournament, Pederson poured in 27 points for Hatton-Northwood. "I didn't feel any...
First-time tournament pressure was no problem for Kyle Pederson.
As a freshman, playing in the quarterfinal round game of the District 3 boys high school basketball tournament, Pederson poured in 27 points for Hatton-Northwood.
"I didn't feel any nerves," Pederson said. "I don't think Mike (Paulson) did, either. We'd played the whole year on varsity. We took it as just another game. But I was shocked by that (27-point total)."
Pederson and Paulson both started on that team as freshmen. They're now juniors and young veterans on the Hatton-Northwood team, which has a young guns theme.
Of the eight teams playing in the District 3 tournament, which starts Friday at Mayville State University, only one team has fewer than the three seniors on Hatton-Northwood's roster. Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg has two seniors, while Dakota Prairie also has only three.
But few district teams can match Hatton-Northwood's experience. Pederson and Paulson are third-year regulars. Senior Ben Cigelske, junior Greg Thompson and sophomore Isaac Bumgardner are second-year regulars.
"Hopefully, with the guys' experience, they can handle situations at tournament time when there's more pressure," Thunder coach Keenan Konschak said. "They've been there. They've done that. They've seen about everything by this time."
They've also experienced success.
Dakota Prairie and Hatton-Northwood tied for the district's regular-season title, with Dakota Prairie getting the No. 1 seed based on a head-to-head win against Hatton-Northwood. The Thunder are 15-4, the best regular-season record in Konschak's five seasons wit the program.
There were growing pains last season, when the team had only one senior on the roster.
"Really, none of us had all played a lot together before that," Pederson said. "We were learning to play as a team. And we were adjusting to playing at the varsity level, where it's more physical and there is a higher skill level of play.
"I think we're a lot better because of the experience we gained."
The strength of the Thunder is its balance.
Cigelske runs the offense from the point. He has two high-scoring perimeter players in Paulson (21.4 ppg) and Pederson (16.3 ppg). Bumgardner (7.5 ppg), Thompson (7.3 ppg) and senior reserve Ben Foss (5.7 ppg) add frontcourt depth.
"Not many teams can play us man-to-man,'' Konschak said. "We have a lot of options.
"Mike is one of the better guys in the area as far as the ability to penetrate and get to the basket. We have two good 3-point shooters in Kyle and Mike. And we have good scorers in the post. We're tough to match up with.''
Thompson is defending champion in the District 3 tournament.
All the boys basketball district tournaments in Region 2 and Region 4 get underway Friday, with second rounds Saturday, followed on Feb. 14 by loser-out region-qualifier and district championship games. The tournaments include:
n District 4, at Grafton: Cavalier won its second straight district regular-season championship. Grafton is defending tournament champion.
n District 7, at Devils Lake: Carrington is bidding for its third consecutive district tournament title.
n District 8, at Langdon: Undefeated and top-ranked North Star takes the No. 1 seed into the tournament. The Bearcats are two-time defending district regular-season and tournament champions.
In other area games to watch this week:
n N.D. Region 2 individual tournament, Saturday in Larimore: Wrestlers are going after top-four finishes, which will earn them berths in the state Class B tournament, to be held Feb. 17-19 in Fargo. The Region 3 individual tournament also will be held Saturday, in Rugby.
n Greenbush-Middle River-Badger at Thief River Falls, Thursday: Two traditional powers in northwest Minnesota meet. A match to watch is at 285 pounds -- G-MR-B's Alex Yeager is the state's top-ranked Class A wrestler at that weight, while the Prowlers' Nick Cervantes is ranked third in Class AA.
n Minnesota Section 8A playoffs: The postseason begins with two quarterfinal games Thursday. Defending state champion Warroad, the top-ranked team in the state, figures to be the team to beat in the section.
n Roseau at Crookston, Thursday: Roseau and Crookston are sitting in second and third, respectively, in North Subsection 8A. Each team has a high-scoring standout, Elizabeth Housker for Roseau and Lauren Graham for the Pirates.
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to email@example.com .