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Despite losing three starters from state championship team, Grafton sticks to principles in return trip

Demers, Hanson lead a retooled Spoilers team looking to repeat as North Dakota Class B state champions.

Grafton Thompson B.jpg
Grafton sophomore Reagan Hanson (11), aided by a pick from teammate Cassie Erickson (22), looks to get past Thompson's Mackenzie Hughes (5) during the Region 2 championship game in 2021 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)

GRAFTON, N.D. — A year ago, the centerpiece of the Grafton girls basketball team was 2,000-point scorer Carlee Sieben, a quick point guard and three-time all-state selection.

This year, the Spoilers lost Sieben and two other starters off that North Dakota Class B state championship team.

This year's team revolves around 6-foot-3 center and NCAA Division I-bound Walker Demers, who has committed to play at South Dakota.

Shifting the scoring load from a quick floor general to a dominant post, however, hasn't changed the identity of the Spoilers.

Grafton likes to stay true to its principles, despite a change in personnel.

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"We push pace and emphasize spacing and good decisions offensively," Grafton coach Laurie Sieben said. "We emphasize making ourselves hard to guard and being a threat. All of that makes Walker's job a lot easier.

"Spoiler basketball is playing positionless and let's work for a good to great shot. We want Walker to touch it because that's ball movement. We ask players to make good choices with the ball. That adds to Walker's game. She can not only finish around the rim but can also facilitate. That's made her game that much better. We teach options ... the fact that Walker is our leading scorer and Reagan Hanson second ... that stuff's not set up."

The Spoilers graduated a trio of starters from last year's state title team in Julia Dusek and Carlee and Cassie Sieben.

Demers has handled the additional attention by averaging nearly a double double. She averages 16.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

One of the bigger role increases, though, came from senior guard Reagan Hanson, who's averaging 13.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

"Reagan learned to manage the game and also score for us, and she loves to play defense," Sieben said.

Hanson was named the Region 2 Senior Athlete of the Year.

"This year, I feel like a lot of new people are stepping into roles we had to replace and they're doing a great job," Hanson said. "Last year, I was more of a shooting guard and was more of a defensive stopper. I was there to guard the other team's toughest player. This year, I'm more of a next scoring option. They look to me to step up and am one of the main leaders as a point guard."

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Jade Moe and Ainsley McClain also stepped into new starting roles for the Spoilers, while Keira Cole, Trinity Parsons and Claire Bjorneby have added depth off the bench.

Hanson said the new-look Spoilers are both the same and different offensively.

"We use Walker inside because no one has a Walker," Hanson said. "If defenses collapse, she sprays it out. We did that last year, too. We're utilizing Walker more in the paint, so we're a little different but also the same. We like to push the ball and like to set up a play and execute. It's very similar but very different at the same time."

Grafton at a glance

Coach: Laurie Sieben.

Record: 20-3, No. 2 seed.

Quarterfinal opponent: Kenmare, 17-7. Game is set for 1 p.m. Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.

Regular rotation: Sr. G Reagan Hanson 13.9 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game; jr. G Ainsley McClain 11.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.5 apg; sr. F Jade Moe 3.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.6 apg; sr. F Cassie Erickson 8.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.2 apg; jr. C Walker Demers 16.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.8 apg; jr. C Keira Cole 4.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 apg; sr. G Claire Bjorneby 4.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.2 apg; soph. G Trinity Parsons 3.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.6 apg.

State tournament history: The Spoilers are the defending state champions. Grafton also won a state title in 2012. Grafton advanced to the Class A tournament eight times (1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1997, 2003). The Spoilers have gone to the Class B tournament four times (2012, 2020, 2021, 2022).

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Coach Sieben says: “Going into it, we’re really going to try to do the things we do well. We’re emphasizing it’s a brand-new season. All of the seven other teams and us get an opportunity to put together their three best games. Whether you’re a seed or not, you’ve got to come ready to play. You also have to be ready to be yourself and not go away from what brought you here.”

Related Topics: NDHSAA
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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