LRSC women and men host Bismarck State with postseason implications

Sam Herder
The Lake Region State College basketball teams host Bismarck State College tonight in two games that have postseason seeding implications. The women's game starts at 6:30 p.m. and the men follow at 8:30.

By Sam Herder

Journal Sports Editor

The postseason is right around the corner for the Lake Region State College basketball teams. Three regular season games remain, beginning tonight with the Royals hosting Bismarck State College at 6:30 and 8:30. Playoff implications loom for both LRSC teams.

Seedings for the Region XIII go by Mon-Dak Conference standings, in which the Lady Royals and Mystics are currently tied at the top with 8-1 records. The winner of tonight’s game likely locks up the top seed in the region playoffs, in which the higher seed hosts each game.

The LRSC and BSC men are both 3-6 in conference play. The winner would likely earn the No. 4 seed, which hosts the No. 5 seed in the first round of regions.

If both LRSC teams wanted do, they could play the revenge card. The Mystics bested the Royals in late January at their place. The Lady Royals lost 104-80 and the men lost 85-79.

“They’re a good team,” Lady Royals head coach Danny Mertens said. “They love to shoot it and play up-tempo like we do. There will be a lot of possessions.”

LRSC uncharacteristically allowed 104 points in the January game. Keisha Engelhardt went off for 43 points.

“We have to contain Engelhardt,” Mertens said. “She can score her 22 or whatever her average is. But you take her average, minus the 43, we’re right in the ball game. We have to contain her. The biggest key to beating that team is containing her.”

The January loss snapped an 8-game winning streak, but the Royals have rebounded to win three straight games.

If the Royals win tonight, they would have to win one of their next two games to at least clinch a share of the Mon-Dak Conference title.

“It’s like the perfect storm,” Mertens said. “It’s the team that beat us pretty handedly. But it’s a team we can beat. Now, they have to come to our place.”

The stakes are high as well on the men’s side.

“Thursday could very well be the difference between us hosting a home playoff game and us being on the road for a playoff game,” Royals head coach Jared Marshall said. “It’s a big deal so we need everyone to come out and support.”

Tonight’s matchup could very well be a preview of the first round region game. The winner tonight could host the loser as the No. 4 seed.

The Mystics are led by sophomore Scott Nagel and freshman Melvin Collins. Collins had 33 points in the January matchup and Nagel added 25.

“Biggest thing is they have a sophomore kid in Scott Nagel who had been struggling a little bit, but really found his groove against us,” Marshall said. “We can’t let him get going. He’s a sophomore, so he knows how to score and what his team needs. They were a tough team. Nagel and Collins, those are two guys we need to do our work on and get ready for.”

The Royals were 15-3 heading into the conference season. But they’ve hit a slump, going 3-6 in league play, including a four-game losing streak that started in Bismarck.

“The thing that has been concerning me lately is we haven’t had that toughness that we had earlier in the season,” Marshall said. “We let it slide a little bit. We need to start digging deep and crawl our way back into these things.”

It’ll be Pink Night at the Sports Center. North Dakota Telephone Company Relay for Life will team up with LRSC to provide some fun games.

Duane Schwab, the former longtime LRSC athletic director and head women’s basketball coach, will be in attendance and will be honored for his Class of 2016 induction into the NJCAA Hall of Fame.