The only North Dakota high school state champion crowned in basketball last year came in Class B girls hoops with Langdon-Edmore-Munich winning it all. I think the Cardinals will still be a contender this year, but I feel like last year’s runner-up might be the favorite. I also think the sting of missing out on last year’s state tournament has a loaded Kindred squad champing at the bit to hit the floor. There’s some outstanding individual talent in Class B girls hoops this year and I had a hard time narrowing down my list of ten for players to watch. Make sure to check that out below my top ten rankings.
Girls Class B
The Spoilers played in the only state basketball championship game held in North Dakota last winter. The unfortunate part for them is that they came up short in the finale to a really talented Langdon-Edmore-Munich team.
The good news for Laurie Sieben’s team is that all five starters return including her twin daughters Carlee and Cassie Sieben. Carlee will be a rare 5th-year starter this season and will be one of the top players in the state. The senior guard averaged 19.1 PPG, 4.9 APG and recorded 93 steals and 61 Treys in her junior campaign while earning all-state honors for the second consecutive season. She’s a great shooter, an outstanding defender and has a high basketball IQ. Cassie averaged 10 PPG, 3.3 RPG and drained 52 Treys last season. Those Sieben sisters along with 6-foot Julia Dusek (12.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 67 STLs) make up a very strong senior trio. Then you add in 6’3” sophomore-post Walker Demers (9.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 98 BLK) and I start to wonder how in the world teams are going to stop Grafton this year.
Experience, chemistry and talent are all strengths of this Grafton team. The next step is adding the program’s first state championship since 2012.
The only team that averaged more points than Grafton (66.8 PPG) last year was Kindred (70 PPG). There’s no question that the Vikings are one of the most talented teams in the state, but they’re also a motivated bunch after suffering their only loss of the season last year in the region championship to Central Cass. The region should come down to those two again.
Abby Duchscherer (24.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 84 STL) and Terryn Johnson (16.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 48 BLK) are finally seniors (checks notes) … never mind, juniors. Duchscherer, Johnson and fellow junior Tina Freier (8 PPG, 4.2 RPG) have been making an impact on varsity since they were 7th graders. Duchscherer will likely go down as one of the best athletes in state history. Her combination of size, speed and length are incredible. She’s an outstanding athlete that committed to playing college softball at the University of Alabama back in September. Johnson’s game really took off last year with her averaging a double-double on the season. Sophomore sharp-shooter Kacie Burner (12.1 PPG, 38 Treys) is another weapon for Sam Brandt’s squad.
The Vikings could’ve easily been ranked #1 on my list, but I’m sure they’ll be just fine holding down the #2 spot if they’re able to get the #1 spot in March.
Jen Brossart’s team returns all five starters from the group that took home fifth place at state last year. The trio of seniors Brooke Blessum (12.3 PPG, 8 RPG, 95 STL, 65 BLK), Sarah Blessum (7.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 81 STL) and sophomore Mykell Hidlebaugh (11.5 PPG, 7 RPG) will anchor a squad that is trying to help Rugby not only reach the 20-win plateau for a seventh consecutive season but also help bring home the ultimate prize for the first time in school history.
In addition to their returning starters, Coach Brossart is very confident in her bench. Rugby gets after you on defense and that’s led to the Panthers routinely being a top-five defense in the state over the last half-decade. I expect that trend to continue and the Panthers to be playing deep into the postseason.
The defending state champs check-in at number four on my preseason list after the significant departures of Class B senior athlete of the year Callie Ronningen and all-district selection Kaitlynn Scherr. They didn’t slip far down the list, though, thanks to a solid trio of returning starters: Sr. Lexi Olson (6.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 89 ast), Sr. Kaylee Lowery (7.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 30 BLK) and Jr. Morgan Freije (12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 35 BLK).
Rob Scherr’s philosophy requires a complete team effort and his players have certainly bought in. The Cardinals' unselfish playing style has led to younger players stepping up in key spots. Now, that youth will be asked to take a big step forward this winter. The Cardinals really flexed their muscle in the state tournament last winter outscoring their opponents 93-53 in the second half. It’ll be nearly impossible to replicate last year’s 27-0 championship season, but head coach Rob Scherr will have this team playing at a high level come February and March.
5. Central Cass
The Squirrels were the surprise of the 2019-20 season after they upset Kindred in the region final, but there won’t be any sneaking up on teams this year. Central Cass returns eight girls that logged a lot of minutes for last season’s team that finished fourth at the state tournament. The most intriguing talent is sophomore Decontee Smith (10 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 45 STL) who really flashed late in the season en route to being named to the State All-Tournament Team.
Jay Bachman’s team plays with a relentless mentality ensuring that the opposing team never feels comfortable. The head coach also really likes his depth, “We are very deep and will have a different leading scorer almost every game.”
Juniors Kailey Mckinnon (9 PPG, 41. Rpg, 40 STL), Jaylin Cotton (7 PPG) and Morgan Lee (6.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 56 STL) are among the top contributors for the Squirrels alongside Smith. I expect sophomores like Tori Richter, Delaney Cotton and Klaire Cotton to pick up where they left off after providing solid contributions off the bench as freshmen. The Squirrels might be young, but they’re an experienced young group that thrives off being a thorn in an opponent’s side. Look out for Central Cass again in 2020-21.
Last year, Langdon-E-M pulled the volleyball/basketball state title sweep. This year, the Linton-HMB Lions are halfway there, after claiming the volleyball crown in November. The Lions return their entire roster including standout seniors Precious Vetter (10 PPG, 4 RPG, 37 STL) and Erica Umber (14 PPG, 8 RPG). The junior duo of Teegan Scherr (10 PPG, 67 STL) and JayCee Richter (15 PPG, 4 RPG, 49 STL, 37 Treys) are fresh off leading that volleyball squad and ready to make some more noise on the basketball court as returning all-conference selections.
The Lions lack size with most of their roster standing at that 5’7” height and the tallest player at 5’9”, but these young ladies play hard and that might be their biggest asset. Their district and region will be a challenge with Kidder County, Medina-P-B, Carrington and Oakes making things difficult come the postseason.
7. Four Winds-Mwkn.
The Indians finished 20-4 last year but missed out on a state tournament bid after losing to eventual state champ Langdon-E-M in the region final.
The bad news is that the Cardinals will likely be in the mix for the region crown again. The good news is that the Indians return three starters and some key bench players from last year’s squad. Without any seniors, the leadership rests on the shoulders of a talented junior class led by Myona Dauphinais (14.9 PPG, 65 Ast, 65 Treys). Dauphinais enters her senior season having already surpassed the 1,000-point milestone. She’s an outstanding shooter, but that means teams will be keying on her. Look for fellow juniors Ezura Rainbow (11.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG) and Mahpiya Jackson (12.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG) to also lead the charge on both sides of the floor. Both help the Indians on the glass and on the scoresheet.
The Indians will play a challenging regular-season schedule, but they’re hoping the payoff comes with a deep run in the postseason.
8. Shiloh Christian
The Skyhawks provided a dramatic moment last postseason when Kelsey Mischel’s 3-pointer beat the buzzer for a 51-50 victory over Flasher in the Region 5 championship game. Mischel is gone, but the Skyhawks do return a trio that made either the all-district or all-region team in 6’1” senior Jacie Hall (12.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 36 BLK), 6’0” junior Grace Kelly (14.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 47 STLs) and 5’4” Kennady Walth (6 PPG, 93 Ast). Those players should provide great leadership for a team that’s also hoping to get good contributions from a talented freshmen class. The coaching staff is excited about the speed and quickness on the roster, but they know they’ll have to make improvements on defense.
The Titans have a future division one basketball player on their roster. 5’11” senior Abbey Kubas announced in November that she’ll continue her hoops career at NDSU. Kubas had an outstanding junior campaign averaging 19.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG and recording 46 steals while leading the Titans to a 14-10 record. She’s one of five starters back for Trevor Ernst’s program. The key for Trinity will be getting some secondary scoring to help Kubas. Senior Kara Wanner (9.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 37 Treys) and junior Kali Kubas (7.5 PPG, 75 Ast) have the ability to increase their averages, but I could see someone from the large freshmen class emerging, as well. Region 7 is going to be a gauntlet with Hettinger-Scranton, Beach and Beulah all fielding good teams this winter. Buckle up!
The 2019-20 season was one to remember for the Tigers. They finished 27-1 with that lone loss coming in the state semifinals before rebounding with a win in the third-place game. This year’s squad will have to find a way to replace the production of all-state selection Kaity Hove.
Bob Turcotte does have a couple of star returners, though, in twin sisters Alyssa and Alexa St. Pierre. Alyssa averaged 14.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG and recorded 53 steals, while Alexa poured in 8.9 PPG and drilled 39 Treys a season ago. Alyssa is extremely skilled and sits at 1,325 career points entering the season. She’s a great defender, too. Alexa is a smart player with a great shot according to her head coach. The other returning starter is junior Jacee Turcotte (9.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG) who excels in the post in both scoring and rebounding. Trenton will be trying to make it back to state for a third consecutive season.
Bubble Teams: Hettinger-Scranton, Kenmare, Beach
Buzzer Beater Thoughts
Led by one of the top players in the state, Hettinger-Scranton will certainly be on the championship radar this winter. 6’0” senior-post Samantha Oase averaged 17.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG and added 69 blocks last season. Head coach Kelly Pierce has high praise for the Black Hills State commit, “Sam is a dominant performer on both ends of the floor. She has a tremendous length which allows her to defend all over the court and has worked extremely hard in the weight room this off-season which will allow her to withstand the constant double and triple teams in the post.” In addition, Bailee Pierce will try to build on a fantastic sophomore season in which she averaged nearly 10 points per game and hit 48 3-pointers. Replacing the production of all-region performer Alyssa Andress is critical, but I expect the Night Hawks to battle for the Region 7 title.
A pair of freshmen led Kenmare to a 19-5 mark in 2019-20 and now Brenna Stroklund (16.3 PPG, 7 RPG) and Kate Zimmer (16.1 PPG, 5 RPG, 55 Treys) turn their attention toward helping the Honkers crack the state tournament for the first time in a decade. Kenmare was one of the better defensive teams in the state last year.
Beach is another team to look out for in the loaded region 7 race. The Bucs size will certainly give opposing teams issues. They have four seniors that are between 5’10” to 6’0” tall. Madi Wilhelmi (10 PPG, 6 RPG, 102 Ast) is a 2-time all-region pick and only entering her junior season. Her vision and ball-handling skills are among the best in the state. The Bucs must fill the void left behind by senior athlete of the year Sam Oech and I think it’ll be a group effort. Head coach Mark Golberg raves about his depth this season, which is a byproduct of a successful off-season. Grafton and Kindred are the true frontrunners on paper this year, but in a unique season like this, it could be anyone’s title come March.
Top 10 Players to Watch
- Isabelle Boyer, Sr. Grant County: 22.9 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 125 STL, 68 Ast
- Abby Duchscherer, Jr. Kindred: 24.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 84 STL, 37 BLK
- MacKenzie Hughes, Sr. Thompson: 21 PPG, 5 RPG, 103 STL, 77 Ast, 53 Treys
- Terryn Johnson, Jr. Kindred: 16.2 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 48 BLK
- Abbey Kubas, Sr. Trinity: 19.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 46 STL
- Samantha Oase, Sr. Hettinger-Scranton: 17.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 62 STL, 69 BLK
- Megan Roob, Jr. Richland: 21 PPG
- Elizabeth Schanilec, Sr. Midway-Minto: 16.8 PPG, 5 RPG, 77 STL
- Madelyn Schmidt, Sr. Kidder County: 17.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 86 STL, 104 ast, 79 Treys
- Carlee Sieben, Sr. Grafton: 19 PPG, 93 STL, 131 Ast, 61 Treys