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Thompson wins Class B Region 2 title, ending Grafton's three-year hold on the crown

Tommies win 49-39 and now advance to next week's state Class B tournament.

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Thompson's Olivia Dick hoists the Region 2 championship trophy with her teammates as fans mob them Thursday after their win over Grafton at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – For three straight seasons, Thompson’s Clara Stevens and Olivia Dick have watched Grafton High School players rejoice after decisively beating the Tommies in the Class B Region 2 championship.

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Thompson's Brenna Martin shoots the ball over Grafton's Keira Cole in the first half Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in the Region 2 championship.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

So when Thompson turned the tables on the Spoilers Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, how did it feel for the Tommies' two seniors?

“It was kind of surreal,” said Stevens. “I said to Olivia, my fellow senior, ‘I can’t believe we just won.’ … It was very exciting. It feels so much more earned. We had to work harder for it. We had the motivation to get what we wanted and, in the end, what we deserved.”

Thompson took an early lead and never trailed in earning a 49-39 win over Grafton, breaking the Spoilers’ three-year hold on the region crown and earning a spot in next week’s state Class B tournament, which begins Thursday in Minot.

Over the past three seasons, Grafton beat Thompson in Class B Region 2 title games by an average of 18 points. Thursday, however, the turnover-plagued Spoilers struggled to gain momentum against Thompson’s scrappy defense and balanced offense.

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It was 13-6 at the end of the first quarter after five Thompson players scored. The Tommies only converted three shots in the second quarter, but still played well enough on defense to keep Grafton down, 20-15.

They pulled away in the third, with 5-3 freshman Addison Sage scoring seven points in the quarter. She scored on a driving 6-footer and then hit a 3-pointer a minute later. Her highlight, however, came just before the end of the quarter, when she drove the baseline – aided by a headfake – and hit a driving layup with only a second on the clock.

In the fourth quarter, Grafton pieced together a couple of comeback attempts, including back-to-back baskets by Keira Cole and Ainsley McLain. That cut the Thompson lead to 36-28, but it was short-lived; turnovers and an untimely offensive foul let Thompson stretch the lead to 43-32 after Sage scored from 12 feet out.

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Thompson's Kya Hurst works the ball inside as Grafton's Kate LeClerc guards her in the first half Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in the Region 2 championship game at the Betty Engelstad Arena.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Free throws in the final minute guaranteed the Tommies’ berth in next week’s state tournament.

“Any time you win a region championship game, it’s obviously a great feeling,” said Thompson coach Jason Brend. “It’s very special for our seniors. They talked about this last summer. They talked about how they want to get to the Class B state tournament. I couldn’t be prouder of our seniors and everybody, but they are our leaders.”

The key, Brend said, was the Tommies’ defense. The strategy was to take away Grafton’s inside game.

“We did a pretty good job against their bigs tonight,” said Brend, who was named Region 2 coach of the year at the conclusion of the game. “Their shooters got a few on us, but for the most part, we were happy with the defense tonight.”

The bulk of Grafton’s scoring came from McLain, a guard who had 17 points, and forward Kate LeClerc, who had 11. Grafton got two short driving baskets from McLain to start the scoring in the first quarter, but then only scored one basket inside of 10 feet until the fourth quarter. The remainder of the Spoilers’ points during that time came from mid- to long-range jump shots and free throws.

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For Thompson (22-2), Sage had 15 points, Dick and Kya Hurst had eight each, Sydney Schwabe and Brenna Martin had seven each and Stevens had four. Full statistics were not available immediately after the game.

“They just made it uncomfortable for us in the half-court,” said Grafton coach Wade Haugen. “We didn’t get shots and in the second half, they hit some big 3-pointers to put it out of reach. It just wasn’t our night, and that happens sometimes.”

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The Thompson girls basketball team celebrates their Class B Region 2 championship after defeating Grafton at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Haugen said the team’s two seniors — McLain and Cole — “embraced the role of being leaders. They built a tradition and culture, and they’ve passed it down.”

Grafton ends the season 16-8.

After the game, a number of awards were announced, including:

All region players: Rylen Burgess, Cavalier; Eden Carrier, Cavalier; Jade Kihne, Cavalier; Keira Cole, Grafton; Ainsley McLain, Grafton; Stella Sehrt, Hatton-Northwood; Kennison Azure, Hatton-Northwood; Rylee Satrom, May-PortCG; Raegan Zerface, May-PortCG; Jenna Fraser, North Border; Hannah Halvorson, Park River F-L; Olivia Dick, Thompson; Sydney Schwabe, Thompson; Kya Hurst, Thompson; Addison Sage, Thompson.

Region senior athlete of the year: Rylen Burgess, Cavalier.

Region coach of the year: Jason Brend, Thompson.

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Region athletic director of the year: Patti Aanenson, Larimore.

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

Over time, he has been a board member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

In the past, Wenzel was sports editor for 14 years at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., before becoming editor and, eventually, publisher.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103.
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