Thompson has youth but experience heading to Class B state tournament

The Tommies regularly play two juniors and six sophomores.

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The Thompson Tommies celebrate their Region 2 championship over the Grafton Spoilers Thursday, March 9, 2023 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

THOMPSON, N.D. — Thompson sophomore Jake Starcevic remembers his first varsity game.

"I fouled out with six minutes left in the fourth quarter," Starcevic said.

That was three years ago.

Starcevic, a starter since eighth grade, is the extreme example of this year's Thompson boys basketball team — a young group with plenty of big-game experience.

The No. 4 seed Tommies, whose top eight players include two juniors and six sophomores, open the North Dakota Class B state tournament Thursday against No. 5 seed Des Lacs-Burlington at 8:15 p.m. in Bismarck.


"If you look at this group, we have a whole handful of players who played in a state baseball championship and some have started varsity football for a couple of years," Thompson coach Brandy George said. "Obviously, it's going to be a totally different stage up to this point, but I'm not overly concerned. These kids will go out and play. That's how they're wired. I'm excited about it. I don't think we'll have those jitters."

Junior Drew Overby, who played a key role off the bench last season, is Thompson's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game. The 6-foot-2 Starcevic averages 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Karter Peterson, a 6-5 sophomore with two years of starting experience, averages 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds.

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May-Port CG's Noah Djibonon and Thompson's Drew Overby scramble for a loose ball in the second half of their Region 2 semi-final game Tuesday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

"We've all been playing together since we were little," Starcevic said. "The way we can talk in huddles — that's the key in these big basketball games. This is an experienced bunch. Even after one season, you always say you're not sophomores, you're a varsity basketball player."

The Tommies started the season up-and-down, which George said he expected from a young team. Thompson opened the year 3-3 against a challenging schedule, which included losses to state tournament top two seeds Central Cass and Shiloh Christian.

"As a staff this year, we spent a lot of time and showed them film about what could improve with shot selection and on the defensive end," George said. "You can say do this or this, but until you see it with your own eyes ... we spent a lot of time with film and breaking things down."

The Tommies will have their hands full against Des Lacs-Burlington center Carson Yale, a 6-9 senior who averages 19.9 points and 11.2 rebounds. He shoots 63 percent from the field.

"I think we have to just keep playing loose and playing our brand of ball," Starcevic said. "Up-tempo is the way we play. We're going to have to rebound a little better and play better defense."

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May-Port CG's Xyler Carlson tries to call a timeout as Thompson's Jakob Starcevic leaps over him as they scramble for a loose ball in the second half of their Region 2 semi-final game Tuesday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Like the state runner-up Thompson girls basketball team a week ago, the Tommies' boys team recognizes this year will be the final season of the two-class system before Thompson plays in the middle division of the NDHSAA's new three-class plan.


"This is a big deal for us," Starcevic said. "It's pretty special to be one of the last eight remaining for the last B. With the 2019 team, we're one of two from Thompson to make it to state in boys. It's an awesome feeling. Being the last B, it has some added meaning to it."

Thompson at-a-glance

Coach: Brandy George.
Record: 17-7.
State quarterfinal matchup: Des Lacs-Burlington, 8:15 p.m., Thursday, in Bismarck.
Path to state: Thompson overwhelmed Park River/Fordville-Lankin in the Region 2 quarterfinals 62-37, then nipped May-Port-C-G 62-60 in the semifinals before holding off Grafton 46-41 in the title game.
State tournament history: The Tommies have only been to two state tournaments, winning it all in 2019.
Top scorers: Jr. G Drew Overby 17.1 ppg; soph. F Jake Starcevic 15.7 ppg; soph. F Karter Peterson 11.7 ppg; jr. G Brayden Wolfgram 7.9 ppg; soph. F Gavin Krogstad 3.9 ppg; soph. F Drew Odenbach 2.8 ppg; soph. G Thomas Schumacher 2.5 ppg; soph. G Braden Tyce 1.8 ppg.
Coach George says: "The biggest thing is we have to go out and rebound. We have to play loose and play our style and play up and down. We can speed up the pace and it gets our defense going. Our pace wasn't great (in the region title game), but we defended like crazy."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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