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AREA NOTEBOOK: Warroad building toward good season

Warroad struggled to just four wins last boys basketball season, which was an improvement of one over the 2013-14 season. Already this season, Warroad has five wins in its first six games. The big difference is an offense that averages 67.3 point...

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Warroad struggled to just four wins last boys basketball season, which was an improvement of one over the 2013-14 season.

Already this season, Warroad has five wins in its first six games.

The big difference is an offense that averages 67.3 points, almost 20 more than the 48.7 scoring average of last season.

“Last year our problems were mainly on the offensive end,’’ Warriors coach Vichita Ounchith said, “the turnovers and our inability to score.’’

The cure for the offense has been twofold.

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A big factor has been the return of Tommy Villayphone, a starter two seasons ago who missed last season due to a knee injury. He’s averaging 14 points. And, without Villayphone, players like Koby Ratsavongsy-Sivixay (16.5 ppg), Caleb Fast (12.5 ppg) and Lucas Garbe (10.3 ppg) all were forced into bigger roles last season. That experience is paying off now, as each of the three has improved his scoring average from a year ago.

“Getting Tommy back was huge,’’ Ounchith said. “He gives us another scorer defenses have to watch and another ballhandler. That’s resulted in fewer turnovers and more scoring opportunities. And we took our lumps last year, but these other kids were able to play bigger roles. That’s carried over to this year.’’

The 6-foot-5 Fast and 6-2 Garbe in the frontcourt give the Warriors a balance to go with guards Villayphone and Ratsavongsy-Sivixay.

“We spread the shots around,’’ Ounchith said. “In almost every game, we’ve had four guys scoring in double figures.’’

Tommies snap Ryan streak

Minot Ryan saw a run of 84 consecutive wins against North Dakota Class B girls basketball opponents snapped by Thompson. The Tommies handed Ryan a 49-31 setback Saturday.

"We were aware of the streak,'' Thompson coach Jason Brend said. "We were excited about the opportunity to play them. This time around, we felt we had the experience factor on them. They graduated pretty heavily.''

Ryan's streak started during the state tournament at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. The Lions didn't lose to a B opponent while winning the past three B state titles. "This was one of the few times fans seemed to be pulling for us,'' joked Brend. As three-time defending Region 2 champions, the Tommies don't play the underdog's role very often.

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"We tried not to play (the Ryan winning streak) up too much with our kids,'' Brend said. "It was more about us starting strong.''

Thompson, 3-0, has two returning starters from a year ago, first team all-state pick Shaice Marx (10 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 4 apg, 2.7 spg) and Emily Overby (15.7 ppg, 4.7 apg), who was an all-stater in volleyball this fall. Annie Nistler, Megan Bohlman and Kailen Dolleslager round out the starting five.

"Early on, we'll probably be more reliant on Marx and Overby,'' Brend said. "But we have kids who contributed off the bench last year who will get more minutes and expanded roles. As we gain experience, we'll get more balance.''

Falcons' 1-2 punch

Fertile-Beltrami is averaging 70.8 points through its first five boys basketball games, winning three. Almost 70 percent of the offense is being provided by seniors Brady Steffes and Jordan Leiting.

Leiting averages 23 points, more than double his 10.9 scoring average of a year ago. Steffes, an all-conference selection last season, has improved his average from 15.5 to 20 points a game.

“We knew they’d have to score a lot for us to be successful,’’ said Falcons coach Neil Steffes, Brady’s father. “They’re our only experienced kids back from last year. We have a lot of sophomores, so (Steffes and Letting) have to carry the load.

“They’re different types of players. Brady is a good outside shooter. He’s gotten to the free-throw line more this year by getting to the basket. Jordan is more of a slasher than a shooter. He goes hard to the basket.’’

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Both have been explosive at times. Letting has a high game of 47 points. Steffes has had 31- and 35-point games. The one thing they haven’t done consistently is score big on the same night.

“With both of them scoring, it’s hard for defenses to key on one or the other,’’ Neil Steffes said.

Briefly

Carter Brown of Pembina County North won the pinner's award at the Hillsboro-Central Valley duals tournament. Brown had five pins in a total time of 4:24. Pembina County North was team champion. . . . Tristan Larson of Red Lake County Central won the pinner's award at the Alfred Olson Memorial wrestling tournament. Larson won the 285-pound title, winning all three of his matches with pins in the first minute of the matches. . . . Area winners Saturday at the Dennis Kaatz Invitational wrestling tournament in Wadena were Badger-Greenbush-Middle River's Bryce Bergeron (113 pounds) and Trevor Undeberg (138) and Thief River Falls' Cade Lundeen (120) and Josh Bernier (152).

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