Third quarter scoring run surges energized Bearcats past young Raiders

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
North Star freshman forward Parker Simon moves past a Lakota defender during a game against the Raiders on Jan. 4 at Lakota Community Center.

Following their win over the Raiders, the Bearcats celebrated the win judgment-free. While no one could see what was going on in the North Star locker room, you could definitely hear it. A few seconds after North Star coaches Jesse Vote, Jacob Hagler and Aaron Peyerl left the room, the Bearcats began to belt a specific Lonely Island song, throwing caution to the wind. 

While in any other venue the noise might get muffled down a hallway, under the stands, or deep within the locker room, the song and voices of the players echoed all throughout the Lakota Community Center. Vote would head back to the door, open it up, and shout something back to the boys, eventually leading to a song change. Nevertheless, the music and singing echoed from North Star's locker room, long enough to where the boys were exiting the locker room and boarding the bus to Nicki Minaj's Starships.  

While North Star (2-3) may come off as somewhat obnoxious post-game, that same exact energy the Bearcats exerted in the locker room was used on the court to finish off the Raiders. A 19-0 run by the Bearcats in the third quarter proved to be the difference-maker as North Star would best Lakota (1-2), 58-44. While the game didn't start off in the Bearcats' favor, the energy boost, later on, put them in a leading position they never gave up. 

"We let them hang around us in the first half, but they stayed in their zone and we hit some shots that got us going," Vote said. "If teams pack us, we're going to have to unload and hit some shots from the outside to get them out of it. We made a couple of adjustments and they seemed to help us down the stretch." 

The third quarter started in favor of the Raiders as junior forward Isaak Anthony and freshman forward Ross Thompson would down back to back rebound shots to pull out to a 25-22 lead, they're first of the game. However, the Bearcats were looking to spark the 3-ball, and after a foul from Thompson, the match was lit. In that run, 15 of those points would come from shots from deep, headed by three treys from senior guard Thomas Nikolaisen. 

Nikolaisen would shoot 4-13 from deep to finish with a team-high 22 points. His offensive efforts were followed up by freshman guard Dane Hagler, who shot for 17 points. In the second half, North Star outscored Lakota 36-23, limiting the Raiders to just seven points in the third quarter. 

"We were getting shots in the first half, but we just weren't hitting them," Vote said. "A made a minor adjustment and found a guy that hit a couple, that's what really won the game for us." 

With no fans in the audience, the Bearcats looked to their bench to supply the energy, which ended up paying off. Vote said the energy level is beneficial for the Bearcats as it was lacking over winter break. Going into the three-game stretch, facing off against Dakota Prairie, Larimore, and No. 2 Four Winds/Minnewaukan all this week, the Bearcats are looking to keep up the same energy in order to come out of this stretch successfully. 

"That was one thing I wanted them to do because we don't have any fans in the stands," Vote said. "We needed to have that. If we don't have any support in the stands it's so hard to get ourselves going and motivated. I thought our bench was into the game."

The energy is something the Bearcats are looking to charge up the scoreboard and their confidence, but no trying to get too out of hand with it. Like redirecting lightning, the energy had the ability to flow, but can easily get out of control. There were a few quieter, confident comments made by the Bearcats, that were loud enough for the people around them to hear, but not loud enough for the refs to hear, however, Vote said that his team needs to be smart with the energy they have. 

"We can't do anything that is going to jeopardize or change the outcome of the game," Vote said. "We're going to talk about that." 

While North Star walked away with the win, the Bearcats are still looking to clean up at the free-throw line and in the turnover category. The Bearcats shot 52 percent at the free-throw line on the night, going 12-23. In coughing up the ball, North Star had 11 turnovers to Lakota's nine. Vote said the turnovers are something that had stood out to the Bearcats early on in the season and are still working on improving. 

"We don't want to take any steps backward," Vote said. "Tonight we did some really good things and we did some not so good things. Those not so good things can't be so glaring and repetitive. We just have to keep building and find guys that want to be on the court. That's going to be our core." 

Lakota freshman forward Ross Thompson	goes up for a shot in a game against North Star on Jan. 4 at Lakota Community Center.

For the Raiders, outside of the third quarter slip up, Lakota was competitive with the Bearcats throughout. At the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third, the Raiders found a way to close up North Star's lead. Lakota was led off by senior forward Brandt Ferguson, finishing with a team-high 13 points.

"It seemed like we were getting that extra pass," Raiders head coach Tyson Ackerman said. "Anytime you can get the ball to the baseline or the middle of the zone, it seems like you can attack it from different angles, and that's what we were looking for. We had a couple of things go our way and got after it defensively." 

However, foul trouble early began to catch up to the Raiders, forcing Ackerman to go to a shorthanded bench. Both halves saw Lakota almost break 10 fouls, committing eight in the first half and nine in the second half. The fouling hit the Raiders hard when freshman forward Ross Thompson would commit his fourth in the second half, limiting his time. His efforts played a major role in getting Lakota the lead as he would drain eight of his 10 points on the night in that second to third-quarter stretch.  

"He's a leader and he's just a freshman," Ackerman said. "He puts in the work and is here early and stays late. Ross Thompson can play. He's probably our best post defender, so when he's on the court and he's got his hands up, passing lanes are gone and deflections are there."

As a young squad, the Raiders are looking at these early games as ones to build upon and learn from before getting into a position to qualify for the regional tournament. Lakota's roster is split straight down the middle between upperclassmen and freshmen, with each group learning something new about their role on the team, game in and game out. 

"We're looking for a steady increase from these kids," Ackerman said. "We throw more and more at these kids every day. We're getting things figured out as well. We had a lot of practice time over Christmas break, where we didn't just run the sugar cookies off, but really worked on full-court transition and getting things done the right way." 

While the game didn't end in favor of the Raiders, there were little victories along the way, such as the team running a full-court press towards the end of the game for the first time this season. Lakota has another busy weekend coming up as well, offering different perspectives from their opponents, as they face Rolette/Wolford, Dakota Prairie, and Devils Lake JV.

"Per player, I'm going to judge success, differently," Ackerman said. "For my seniors, it's when they quit making those mistakes, because they aren't young anymore and can't make those dumb turnovers. For my freshman, its about learning about committing silly fouls and getting out of there."

"One of my players had four blocking fouls tonight, and it's the definition of insanity, you can't keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. I am seeing those changes and the kids are engaged. When you're coaching and you see five sets of eyes looking up at you, actually listening to what you're saying, and executing it out on the court, that's the success for me." 

 Jack Williams covers Lake Region sports and general news for the Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, on Twitter @jackgwilliams, or phone at 701-662-2127.

North Star 58, Lakota 44

North Star - 15, 7, 19, 17 - 58

Lakota - 7, 14, 7, 16 - 44

North Star (2-3) - Nikolaisen 2 6-7 22, D. Hagler 2 4-7 17, Wagenman 2 1-2 8, Nicholas 2 0-0 4, H. Hagler 2 0-1 4, Svir 1 0-4 2. P. Simon 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 12-23 58 

Lakota (1-2) - B. Ferguson 5 3-7 13, Thompson 5 0-0 10, Gibson 1 2-6 7, Hendrickson 0 0-0 6, Steffan 1 0-0 5, Baumgarn 0 0-0 3. Totals 12 5-13 44

3-pointers: North Star 8 (Nikolaisen 4, D.Hagler 3, Simon 1). Lakota 5 (Hendrickson 2, Gibson 1, Baumgarn 1, Steffan 1)