BOYS BASKETBALL: Junior Alex Weston leads Bearcats back to state B tournament
CANDO, N.D. -- Alex Weston is playing basketball with a bitter memory driving him. The junior has led North Star to a return trip to the North Dakota state Class B boys high school basketball tournament. In the Region 4 title game last week, West...
CANDO, N.D. - Alex Weston is playing basketball with a bitter memory driving him.
The junior has led North Star to a return trip to the North Dakota state Class B boys high school basketball tournament.
In the Region 4 title game last week, Weston poured in 30 points - including a 3-point basket from the right corner to force overtime and another trey from the same spot for the winning points in the second overtime in a 65-64 win against Four Winds-Minnewaukan.
In that same game a year ago, Weston was held scoreless and North Star was defeated by Four Winds-Minnewaukan 66-56.
“It’s not a redemption game,” Weston says of last week’s win. “I felt I was the reason our seniors didn’t get back to state last year. That game last year still motivates me. It will for the rest of my high school career.
“I had a really, really bad game (in the 2013 region final). I was thinking I couldn’t have a game like that again. In the second half, I started looking more for my shot. The first couple went in and I got in a groove. It felt so good.”
Weston and junior classmate Christian Kvilvang were all-district picks last season. Now they’re part of a new-look Bearcats team. With the graduation of the all-state backcourt duo of Jake Hagler and Daniel Grande, North Star has relied more on balance and its frontcourt.
The 6-foot-5 Kvilvang paces the 18-7 team in scoring (18.9 ppg) and is second in rebounding (7.1 rpg). The 6-6 Weston averages 18.5 points and leads the Bearcats in rebounding (7.6 rpg), blocks (2.1 bpg) and 3-point baskets (41).
Joining them in the starting lineup are Mathew Hunt (6.6 ppg, 5 rpg) and the freshman backcourt of Jayden Komrosky (10.8 ppg, 4 apg) and Johnny Heisler (8.9 ppg, 4.5 apg).
“We’re not as deep as we’ve been the last few years, and we’re not nearly as explosive,” Bearcats coach Jeff Hagler said.
But he’s not surprised that the Bearcats are returning to state after a one-year absence - not even with a veteran Four Winds-Minnewaukan team returning, not even with the task of having to beat St. John and Four Winds-Minnewaukan in the regional. Both those teams beat North Star during the regular season.
“At the start of the year at our coaches meeting, even when Jayden was injured, we felt we had a lot of talent,” Jeff Hagler said. “We knew we were young, that there would be nights when we (coaches) would be scratching our heads and wondering what was going on.
“But we figured that, by the end of the year, we’d be tough. We had talented kids. They just had to figure out their roles.”
A welcome addition
Most of the players are home grown. But Kvilvang transferred to North Star from Valley City prior to the 2012-13 school year. He’s the grandson of long-time Cando boys basketball coach John Elsperger.
“A lot of people come up and talk to me about my grandpa and what a good coach he was,” Kvilvang said. “It’s really cool. And he’ll tell me things I should be doing. He says he has to keep quiet some. But he knows the game really well.”
Kvilvang came into a program where expectations were high. He felt the disappointment of the season that came up short of the team’s expectations. Now he’s part of a Bearcats reversal, heading back to the state tournament without a senior on the roster.
“It was kind of hard to swallow the way last season ended,” Kvilvang said. “So we came into this year wanting to show that we’re still a strong team, even without those seniors that graduated last spring. We heard talk about how we were young and a year away. We wanted to show we could be good this year.”
The way last season ended was harder to take for Weston than anyone.
“After the region tournament last year, I don’t think I touched a basketball for at least a month,” the junior said. “Usually I have a basketball in my hand every day. But I wanted nothing to do with it, that (ending) was so heartbreaking.
“This year, people saw us as too young, too inexperienced to get to state. It was great not to have that pressure on us. The game was a lot more fun without all the expectations.”
North Star at a glance
Coach: Jeff Hagler.
State tournament opener: The Bearcats play Beulah at 8:15 p.m. Thursday in the Alerus Center in the quarterfinals of the North Dakota Class B state boys basketball tournament.
The rematch: Beulah beat North Star 51-49 in the 2012 state Class B championship game.