Tommies hold on, punch their ticket to the state Class B tournament
Thompson downs Grafton 46-41 in Region 2 title game
GRAND FORKS – All regional championships are special.
Try and tell the Thompson Tommies that. They know the regional title they captured Thursday night has some extra meaning to it. And it’s hard to argue against it.
The reward for winning the regional – a trip to next week’s North Dakota state Class B boys basketball tournament – holds extra special meaning this year.
“It’s the last, real Class B tournament,” said Thompson’s Jakob Starcevic after he helped lead the Tommies to a 46-41 win over Grafton in the title game of the Region 2 Class B boys tournament at the Betty – a victory that was gritty, defensive-minded and intense for 32 minutes.
“This is the second time in school history that we made it,” said Starcevic. “I’m just so happy we made it. This has been a dream of mine for so long. It’s just awesome to see it.”
Next week’s state Class B tournament in Bismarck will be the last in its present form as the state moves to a three-class system next season. Thompson no longer will be in the Class B division.
But the Tommies will spend plenty of time celebrating this season’s trip to the B.
Thompson, which made its only other state Class B appearance in 2019, improved to 16-7 while the Spoilers, who reached the Class B tournament the past two seasons, closed out at 17-7.
Thompson led the majority of the game, opening a 14-point lead late in the second quarter.
But Grafton worked its way back into contention midway through the fourth quarter.
Kyler Droog’s putback with 1:49 left cut Thompson’s lead to 38-37, setting up a tense finish.
Karter Peterson scored for Thompson at 1:26 for a 40-37 Tommie advantage. But Grafton’s Ryan Hanson responded with a drive at 1:08, cutting Thompson’s lead to 40-39.
Thompson’s Brayden Wolfgram responded with the shot of the game when he drilled a 3-pointer from the wing, giving the Tommies a 43-39 advantage with 34 seconds to go.
That was too much for Grafton to overcome.
“It was a big moment and Brayden knocked it down,” said Starcevic, a 6-foot-2 sophomore.
Grafton came into the title game on the heels of a blistering shooting attack in its semifinal win over Hillsboro-Central Valley.
The shots didn’t fall for the Spoilers until late.
“The key to the night was our defense,” said Thompson coach Brandy George. “Our defense was really good. Going into this game, we knew we had to run them off the three-point line because they’re deadly from there. I thought we did that. We held some really good shooters in check.”
Wolfgram led the Tommies with 17 points, 12 coming in the first half on four 3-pointers. Starcevic added 10. The Tommies’ offense came from the post and the perimeter as Thompson did not shoot its first free throw until 13 seconds remained.
Grafton was led by Droog’s 14 points. Juan Villarreal added 13 and Braylon Baldwin 10.
“These kids have confidence in each other,” said George. “That’s what it’s all about. So, you know, 20 some games and 40 practices later, here we are, going to Bismarck for the state Class B.
“I’m so excited for our school, our community and for everybody. It’s an exciting time in school history. It’s going to be a special weekend.”
Thompson 46, Grafton 41
Halftime: Thompson 26, Grafton 17
Grafton – Braylon Baldwin 10, Juan Villarreal 13, Ryan Hanson 2, Reggie Rice 2, Kyler Droog 14
Thompson – Drew Overby 8, Brayden Wolfgram 17, Karter Peterson 6, Gavin Krogstad 5, Jakob Starcevic 10