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E/K-M, Linton/HMB, Ellendale boys' hoops teams preparing for hard-fought District 2 tourney

Feb. 23—JAMESTOWN — The 2024 edition of the North Dakota High School Activities Association Division B District 2 boys' basketball tournament is expected to be an incredibly competitive one at the Jamestown Civic Center.

The top five seeds in the tournament all head in above .500 and are separated by four games.

The top of the district is so tight that the top two seeds, No. 1-seeded Edgeley/Kulm-Montpelier and No. 2-seeded Linton/Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock are only separated by one game in the standings. Both teams come in at 16-3 overall, but a 66-62 Rebels win over the Lions puts the Rebels district record at 6-0 compared to the Lions' 7-1 record.

The No. 3 seed in the tournament is the Ellendale Cardinals, who are 12-7 overall and 6-2 in the district, followed by No. 4 seed LaMoure/Litchville-Marion, who are 11-8 overall and 3-4 in the district. The top five is rounded out by 11-8 Medina/Pingree-Buchanan, who are 4-4 in the district.

"You look at every team, every team's got at least three starting seniors, some of them are four or five starting seniors, just that years of experience helps," Cardinals head coach Brian Vance said about the talent in the district. "We're loaded with seniors this year all the way up and down everybody's roster."

Rebels head coach Kevin Strobel said they have to keep it simple to win the tournament.

"As always we gotta defend well and rebound well and offensively, we gotta take care of the ball and execute what we do on offense," Strobel said. "So it comes back to some fundamentals, really."

Vance said his expectations heading into the tournament are to win the district title.

This is Lions head coach Alex Jangula's first trip to the postseason as the head coach at the school after taking over for longtime head coach Dan Carr. Jangula said his keys are to win the rebounding battle, not to turn the ball over and not make mistakes defensively. Jangula said he is hoping his five seniors, including Justin Tschosik and Jace Jochim, have big tournaments. Jangula said he the fact that the Civic Center has a bigger floor and it is a bigger stage than usual, will mean they need to go down their bench in this tournament.

"We're senior-led, we have Justin Tschosik and Jace Jochim, who do a little bit of everything for us both offensively and defensively," Jangula said. "I think Kashton Moser has had a really good second half of the year, he's probably averaging in the second half of the year, 15 points, eight boards."

This season, Jochim is averaging a team-leading 21.0 points per game, while Tschosik is averaging 7.5 points. During the campaign, seven different Lions have played in all 19 games and seven others have appeared in at least two games.

"It's always nice to have the confidence to be able to go to your bench and not have a big drop off," Jangula said. "We have two seniors (Kaden Masset, Payton Rossow) actually coming off the bench that have played a lot of basketball for us who I know the moment won't be too big for them. That's reassuring as a coach to have that confidence that we can trust that bench if there is foul trouble or whatnot."

Vance said he is looking for big performances from four of his seniors in Jack Bommersbach, Mason Molan, Anton Geller and Kade Schimke. He also said he is expecting big things out of junior Evan Wagner.

The Rebels open their tournament at 3 p.m. on Feb. 23 when they take on No. 8-seed Kidder County. Strobel said his team can't overlook the Wolves.

"They're young, so they're gonna make some mistakes but they always play hard, the kids play hard and they're scrappy," Strobel said. "The first time we played them, I believe it was tied or we might've even been down a point at halftime. So throw the record out the window and we can't look past them, we gotta come up there in Jamestown, opening day of the tournament and take care of it, play hard and take care of the basketball."

The Lions open their tournament in the third game of the day on Feb. 23, when they take on No. 7-seed Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter. The two teams previously played on Jan. 26 with the Lions getting an 84-49 win.

"Trevor Moos can get to the hoop in a hurry, he's very athletic," Jangula said. "Their point guard Tristan Schaffner is 6-foot-3, brings the ball up, kind of a matchup nightmare for people. They're long and athletic. If you don't take care of the ball, they can get in passing lanes and they want to get out and run, so you can really be cognitive of taking care of the ball and limiting them to one shot and then on offense, once you get a shot just know they're gonna want to get out and run."

After heading into the last two district tournaments with the top seed, Vance does not buy the idea that his team is an underdog as a No. 3 seed in this year's competition.

"We've talked to all the coaches, everybody knows it takes three games and there's a lot of teams that can win it this year," Vance said. "In the past, you had your true favorites. I would say E/K-M and Linton are probably a little bit ahead of the rest of us, but on any given night, we played Edgeley pretty well, we didn't play Linton very well. It's just any given night any team can step up ... there's a lot of good teams in our district. We're gonna have to come and play three real good games."

Although they are reigning district champions, Strobel said his team doesn't feel a lot of pressure to repeat.

"Yeah, we want to win the district, but our first goal is to get those two wins to qualify for regions and this district is really strong," he said. "There could be any number of teams that could play well enough to get districts, so I think there's a little pressure there being the one seed, but I hope our kids are focused, we take it one game at a time. ... our goal was to get those two wins to get to regions first and should that put us in position to win the district championship well then we'll take it from there."