In injuring his wrist last Friday night, Casey Duppong made the boys basketball situation in Region 7 very interesting.
Weâ€™re nearing the halfway point of the season and, so far, there is no telling which team is on track to make the Class B state tournament.
Dickinson Trinityâ€™s 53-42 victory over previously unbeaten and Duppong-less Beulah on Tuesday night could be just the beginning of an unpredictable season that looked very much predictable as the Miners â€” who were ranked third in this weekâ€™s media poll â€” won their first nine games, bringing back a nice chunk of talent from last seasonâ€™s team that finished sixth at the state tournament.
When Duppong fractured his wrist against Hazen, an injury that required surgery, Beulahâ€™s chances of repeating as region champs shrink without him. The Miners (9-1, 1-1 District 14) are still going to be good and will still probably earn the No. 2 seed in their district tournament, but Trinity has very much put itself in the driverâ€™s seat with that win.
Buoyed by the breakouts of sophomores Isiah Binstock and Jacob Volk, Trinity (9-1, 2-0 District 14) is coming on strong. The Titan seniors are doing their thing and while the junior class is still erratic at times, they are contributing nicely.
Itâ€™s not just Trinity and Beulah whose seasons are in a much different place than where they were at the end of December though.
Several teams in the region appear very much in flux.
Looking at the standings and some of the teamâ€™s past accomplishments, there is a chance the team that finishes fifth in the District 13 regular season could have a very good shot of winning the seven-team tournament in February and maybe even have a chance at winning the region title and at least two good teams who wonâ€™t even make the region tournament. How crazy is that?
â€” Mott-Regent is 7-1 overall with a 4-0 district record and is on track to take the top seed into its district tournament. They havenâ€™t lost since falling to Trinity in the opening game of the Roughrider Tournament. However, the Wildfire are riding the two-man game of juniors Nate Fries and Chad Mosbrucker. Even though they are two of the best players in Region 7 and while Mott-Regent has a nice set of role players surrounding them, thereâ€™s just something about them that makes me weary of calling them a favorite to win the region. That said, if the Region title was tonight, Iâ€™d put the Wildfire against Trinity in what would be a very good game.
â€” Heart River is 7-4 with a 1-1 record in the district. They pushed Mott-Regent to overtime with a fourth-quarter comeback on Tuesday, but fell short, 60-57. Along with Trinity, the Cougars are probably the deepest team in the region and they have the right combination of height and athleticism to compete with anyone. The only problem is, Heart River doesnâ€™t have one guy who can completely take over a game. In many situations, that doesnâ€™t matter. This year, with the region as tight as it is, having an ace in the hole â€” someone who can step in and drop 30 against anyone at any time â€” could be a major factor.
â€” New England is 7-3 overall and 1-2 in the district. The Tigers, enjoying their best season since 2005, were ranked 10th in the state for a couple weeks early in the year after starting the season 5-0 and winning the Roughrider Tournament. But, the teamâ€™s lack of depth beyond its starting five has really started to show in the past two weeks. All three of the Tigersâ€™ losses have been by single-digits and one was in overtime. On Tuesday, Hettinger (in a game that I felt was a trap game from the beginning of the season) handed them a 70-64 loss â€” their worst of the season. Junior forward Kaine Hanson has become one of the most intriguing players in the region. Heâ€™s a double-double waiting to happen, but needs everyone around him (junior slasher Nick Wolf, junior point guard Clarence Binstock and senior guard Mark Frank) to perform well every night if the Tigers are going to compete for the district title.
â€” Beach is 6-4 overall and 0-2 in the district â€¦ and I can very well see them pulling off a district championship at tournament time. They have 6-foot-8 junior center Landon Lechler at their disposal and he is scoring about 20 points a game. Jake Hardy is chipping in about 10-12 points a night, but the Buccaneers donâ€™t seem to have much consistency around them. Nonetheless, having a 6-8 player like Lechler in this region is not something to gloss over. His height and Beachâ€™s overall athleticism, makes the Buccaneers a threat.
â€” Bowman County is 6-5 and 2-1 in the district. The Bulldogs pulled off a 47-46 road win over Beach on Tuesday and are an improving team under savvy veteran coach in Gary Ballard. Though they donâ€™t have a go-to guy like they had the past two years with Brock Boos, the Bulldogs look like theyâ€™re becoming a well-rounded team. And, history has shown, never count out a Bowman County team when it hosts the district tournament. Never.
â€” Hettinger is 5-4 and 2-1 in the district. The Black Devilsâ€™ win over New England was a big boost for them and a major blow to the Tigers. Ben Laufer dropped 29 in that game and is having a great season. However, itâ€™s yet to be seen if Hettinger can sustain a win streak and truly become a threat for the district crown.
â€” Scranton is 3-7 and 0-3 in the district. The Miners are in their final season before their inevitable co-op with Hettinger, and while youâ€™d like to see them pull out a miracle, it doesnâ€™t look like that is in the cards.
A few more notes on District 14 â€¦
â€” Killdeer is 4-8 overall and 2-0 in the district and appears to be figuring things out. In Colt Mavity, Austy Sadowsky and Brodie Candrian, the Cowboys have a nice core to work with, but getting past Trinity and Beulah is going to be tough.
â€” Hazen is 5-7 overall and 1-1 in the district. Because 14 is having a bit of a down season, Hazen will likely return to the region tournament. The Bison appear to be getting their footing after a slow start. But, like many other teams in this region, they donâ€™t seem to have a dagger type of guy.
â€” Glen Ullin-Hebron is 3-6 and 0-3 in the district and Richardton-Taylor is 2-9 and 1-2 but I really think thereâ€™s a chance that these two teams can make the region tournament. Although the Bearcats and Raiders have been in the shallow end of the basketball talent pool the past couple years, they have as good of a chance as anyone of being one of the four teams to make it out of District 14 and into the Region 7 tournament â€¦ where they would likely be sacrificial lambs to the District 13 champion or runner-up.
So what do I think is going to happen at tournament time? Beatâ€™s me. All I know is that itâ€™s going to be fun for fans to watch.