Grafton girls basketball coach Laurie Sieben has coached her twin daughters -- Cassie and Carlee -- since they started playing the sport.
This weekend will be the last time the twins play for their coach and mom as the Spoilers are focused on winning the North Dakota state Class B girls basketball championship.
Grafton, the state runner-up last season, will take on Glenburn on Thursday at noon in a quarterfinal game at the Minot State Dome. Last season, Grafton lost to Langdon-Edmore-Munich in the title game.
For now, however, the focus is solely on Glenburn.
“We’re just really in the moment right now,” said Laurie Sieben. “I’m just so thankful for the time I’ve had with them on the court. That’s what has been memorable.”
Sieben has been with this group of Grafton players, not just Cassie and Carlee, since kindergarten. She coached youth basketball with them and has been with the group for numerous offseasons.
“I’m so grateful for the front row seat that I’ve had with this senior class and so grateful as a mom that they’ve been able to experience a great group of kids that have a great group of families,” she said. “But, we’re just focused on the moment right now. We’re focused on Thursday and focused on bringing the energy and focused on just trying to be us this weekend.”
The Spoilers enter the quarterfinal round as the No. 2 seed. The top seed is Central Cass, which defeated Grafton 55-53 back in December, one of only two losses for the 22-2 Spoilers.
After that defeat, the Spoilers were able to score an average of 76 points a game, limit opponents to an average 35 points a game, rack up a 50 percent field goal percentage and shoot 73 percent from the free-throw line -- all of which rank first among teams entering the state tournament.
There is no thought from Grafton about a rematch with Central Cass.
“It’s really about getting by that first game,” said the Grafton coach. “If we have the opportunity to have that matchup, that’s great, but our focus is game number 25 against Glenburn. Our girls understand that it’s going to be a battle and every team in that bracket is championship level. We’re going to have to play four quarters of Spoiler basketball.”
After falling short in the state tournament last year and a unique summer due to COVID, Sieben is impressed with her group’s willingness to come in and adapt to how the game has changed since the beginning of the season in November.
“There was really an emphasis that we didn’t want to be that same team,” Sieben said. “I’m just so proud of the girls’ approach. Going into practices and each regular season game, they’ve shown great readiness as a group. They’ve done a great job of preparing each other.”
Grafton won the Region 2 title with a 13-point win over Thompson, another Region 2 power in the title game.
“We did a nice job going into those region games playing with good energy, being ready to put forth four quarters of the things that we do,” she said. “I feel like we aren’t the same team that we were last year. The girls got in the weight room, they worked on their skillset. Each and every one of them stepped up in their leadership roles and that’s a collective effort.”
Grafton at a glance
Coach: Laurie Sieben, 20th season.
Leading scorers: Carlee Sieben 21.2 ppg, Julia Dusek, 13,0 ppg, Walker Demers 13.0 ppg
Leading rebounders: Walker Demers 8.8 rpg, Julia Dusek 5.8 rpg, Cassie Sieben 3.7 rpg
Assist leaders: Carlee Sieben 6.0 apg, Julia Dusek 1.8 apg, Reagan Hanson 1.8 apg
Of note: Grafton was the state runner-up last season, falling to Langdon-Edmore-Munich in the title game. Grafton won the 2012 state Class B title.