State Class B boys basketball: Some have hope, some don't

Grafton's Justin Garza and Hillsboro-Central Valley's Landen Reed, Oscar Benson and Patrick Limke scramble for a loose ball in the Region 2 Class B boys basketball semifinal game at the Betty Engelstad Arena. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Almost four weeks have passed since all high school sports were suspended in North Dakota due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes the Class B boys basketball tournament. The eight state qualifiers won region titles on March 12 -- the night before everything was suspended.

Hillsboro-Central Valley defeated Hatton-Northwood 55-38 in the Region 2 title game. For Burros teammates Carson Henningsgard and Oscar Benson, the expectations of ever playing in the state B are on opposite ends.

Henningsgard holds out hope that the tournament still can be played. Benson is pessimistic.

“When President Trump declared a national emergency, I thought it probably wasn’t going to happen,’’ Benson said.

“I don’t have a ton of hope, to be honest. There is always that little chance. And it would be awesome to play it.’’


That declaration and the subsequent suspension of activities came as a big disappointment.

“Everybody was devastated when we heard,’’ Benson said. “We probably played our best game in the last game of the region tournament. It’s sad, not being able to showcase that at state. I think we could have done pretty well.’’

But, he adds, “this (virus) isn’t something that’s going to go away. It’s a long-term deal.’’

Henningsgard, on the other hand, is cautiously optimistic.

He said he’s heard of other states that have left open the possibility of playing a state basketball tournament in June if the spread of the pandemic has curtailed.

“It’s not canceled. I still have hope,’’ Henningsgard said. “As long as there's still a chance, as long as they haven’t canceled it, I’m not giving up hope. Playing in another state tournament has always been a dream of mine.’’

For most of the Burros, there is no next season to bank on. All five starters are seniors.

They’ve enjoyed success. Some were on the Hillsboro-Central Valley team that won the 2018 B state basketball tournament. Most of the players were on Burros’ state championship football team last fall.


“It still would be a big void if we don’t play it,’’ Henningsgard said. “Losing in the region championship game last year (to eventual state champion Thompson) hurt. We wanted to get back and have another shot at winning state. It’s our senior year; we wanted to end it on a high note.

“I don’t want to look back some day and have a what if, wondering what might have happened if we’d played.’’

In the meantime, basketball for the Burros has been limited. Coaches can’t coach. No formal practices can be held. Benson said there have been a few gatherings when a few players have had shooting contests, or dropped the rim down to eight feet and had dunking contests.

“A lot of guys have hoops in their driveways,’’ Benson said. “We’ll get together and shoot around. But it’s been pretty limited.’’

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