GGF PREP NOTEBOOK: Riders wary of Central's big three

Six different Grand Forks Central players had goals when the Knights beat Grand Forks Red River 8-2 in the initial intracity hockey game this winter.

Six different Grand Forks Central players had goals when the Knights beat Grand Forks Red River 8-2 in the initial intracity hockey game this winter.

That balance is a concern for Roughriders coach Bill Chase -- but not as much as Central's big three.

Central and Red River meet again at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Central currently has three of the top scorers in North Dakota in Luke Johnson, Johnny Simonson and Jordy Aamot.

"I don't know if you can stop all three of them," Chase said. "You have to try to limit their opportunities. And you have to try to hold their other guys down. They can hurt you. But holding those three down is the hard part."

In Johnson (13 goals, 18 assists), Simonson (20-13) and Aamot (7-27), Central has one of the best 1-2-3 scoring punches in the state. The Knights are 9-4-2; when that trio has been held to four or fewer points, Central's record is 0-3-1.


"Game in and game out, those three produce," Central coach Tony Bina said. "And they always seem to get big points, the game-winning goal or the late score to get us a tie or a cushion, things like that.

"Jordy is a playmaker, always moving the puck. Johnson and Simonson move the puck, too, but they're looking to finish more."

Central has other threats. Alec Lazur has 11 goals, and defenseman Jeremy O'Keefe has 18 points. But balance is more the strength for Red River. The Riders' offense is paced by Casey Fugleberg (13 goals, 14 assists), Alan Zahui (18-7) and Brock Dahl (6-10).

Since the 8-2 loss to Central on Jan. 4, Red River has allowed only 10 goals in six games. Bryan Nies is in goal for the 11-4 Riders.

"We have to rely on our balance, going with three or four lines," Chase said. "And our defense has gotten stronger. Bryan is a very good goalie. He's kept us in games. We need him to be stellar."

A Knight reversal

After opening the season with five straight losses, Grand Forks Central's boys basketball team won three of its next five games. It's a turnaround that doesn't surprise Knights coach Dan Carlson.

"It was definitely frustrating," Carlson said of the season-opening losing streak. "We didn't feel that we were that far away. Minot is the only team that really handled us; we were in almost every other game. And a lot of them were on the road."


Central was within a few points of being on a five-game winning streak heading into Friday night's game at Wahpeton, as the 3-2 run included a 1-point loss to Red River and a 2-point setback against Fargo Shanley. Of Central's seven losses, four were by three or fewer points. Another was by eight to Fargo North in a game in which Central led by 11 at halftime.

Center Ben Lofgren has been the Knights' most consistent offensive player, averaging 13 points. Carlson said a big difference of late has been the offense of Sean Norton and Grant Parks. Norton has a team-leading 15.8 scoring average -- he had 63 points in Central's first five games and 95 points in the next five. Parks averages 7.8 points off the bench, scoring 29 points in the first five games and 49 in the next five.

"Ben has been pretty consistent," Carlson said. "Teams are keying on him. That's opened things up for our outside shooters, and Sean and Grant are both good from the outside.

"And defensively we've played pretty well. We've kept good teams like Red River, Fargo North and Fargo Shanley from getting 70 points. Nowadays, with the shot clock and the 3-point shot, that's pretty good."

Stingy Wave defense

Defense has sparked the East Grand Forks Senior High girls basketball team on a run that has seen the Green Wave win 10 of their last 11 games.

In those 11 games, Senior High has allowed only two teams to reach the 50-point mark. Grafton has the most points against Senior High in that stretch, beating Senior High 55-46.

The 13-5 Wave have adapted on defense after the graduation last spring of 6-foot-1 center Kate Warmack.


"We don't have Kate, who was a presence in the middle for the last four years," Senior High coach Durene Frydenlund said. "We've had to do more double-teaming down low. The girls have had to work harder because there's more ground to cover.

"Defense has to be the key for us. Sometimes it's been a struggle for us to get 50 points. Defense isn't easy; it's hard work. But the girls have bought into it. We have the speed, stamina and depth to use a full-court pressure defense. And we've developed some continuity, working together. We force a lot of turnovers."

The effectiveness of that defense showed this week in a win against Warroad. Senior High had 38 steals in the game, including 11 by Chelsey Frydenlund and 10 by Brandi Wickersham.


East Grand Forks Sacred Heart all-state lineman Austin LeTexier has made a verbal commitment to play football at Minnesota-Duluth.

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