Grafton developing post play, bench to complement veteran backcourt

Mar. 12—GRAND FORKS — The backcourt for the Grafton boys basketball team has been a known commodity for years as Spoiler seniors Braylon Baldwin, Tony Villarreal and Ryan Hanson led the program to the 2022 North Dakota Class B state tournament as sophomores.

The Spoilers, the No. 3 seed at this weekend's Division A state tournament in Fargo, are state title contenders, however, thanks to the development of the team's post play and depth to complement the proven scoring of Baldwin, Villarreal and Hanson.

Grafton will play No. 6 Beulah at 2:45 p.m. in Thursday's state quarterfinals.

"I just think all seven of us who rotate, we make a great fit," Baldwin said. "We have guys coming off the bench as sophomores, and they're able to knock down shots. It's lethal to have guys who can spark you to go on runs."

Baldwin averages 20.5 points per game, while Villarreal is at 12.7 points per game and Hanson is at 10.6.

Six-foot-7 junior Kyler Droog has added punch in the post with 12.0 points per game. Two-year starting post Abram Sevigny also adds verstality to the group.

"Kyler has made a big jump this year with his strength and has improved his game overall," Grafton coach Riley Lillemoen said. "He's so much bigger. He's averaging a double-double for us. (Sevigny) does a lot of little things for us."

Two young bench players have also added a new scoring role for this year's Spoilers. Sophomore Brody Lilleomoen, the son of Riley, has led the Spoilers in scoring in a few games. The 6-6 guard is averaging 9.1 points per game. Another sophomore, 6-5 forward Reggie Rice, is adding 5.7 points per game.

With the improved post and bench play, the Spoilers feel they can contend with anyone in the state.

"They work hard, get after it and compete," Riley Lillemoen said. "They know they can compete with anybody. They want the challenge. Win or lose, I know they're going to give it their all. That's what's most important, and that's really why it's fun to coach them."

Baldwin, Villarreal and Hanson joined Grafton at state when the Spoilers went four seasons ago. Relegated to a bench role, the young Spoilers took everything in and kept the ball rolling when they received playing time as sophomores.

Grafton finished sixth at state in 2022.

"It's a lot different thinking about going our sophomore year," Baldwin said. "We developed our game since then. Knowing we're a better team, it feels better. It's bittersweet going our last time, but we're in a position to end on a bang."

Coach: Riley Lillemoen.

Record: 20-4.

Top scorers: Sr. G Braylon Baldwin 20.5 points per game; sr. G Tony Villarreal 12.7 ppg; jr. F Kyler Droog 12.0 ppg; sr. F Ryan Hanson 10.6 ppg.

State tournament history: Grafton has three state championships, last winning in 2008. This will be the Spoilers' 10th state appearance.