Confident, but not satisfied: North Star girls continue to build up after loss to Dunseith

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
North Star junior forward Danielle Hagler passes the ball in a game against Dunseith on Jan. 13 at North Star High School.

Winning the mental side of the game is a goal that the Bearcats take into matchups where their back might be against the wall. If they're down or up, staying sharp mentally can dictate a lot of what is happening on the hardwood. Tuesday night the Bearcats played Dunseith and if they played the same Dragon squad with the team's mentality from two years ago, it may have been a very different result.

While North Star (3-3, 1-1 Region 4) didn't come away with the win on Tuesday against Dunseith (5-4, 2-0 Region 4), falling to the Dragons 66-57, the Bearcats mental approach to the game always kept them within striking distance, and in the lead at some points. Instead of hanging their heads and remaining quiet, the Bearcats were bringing a focused and driving approach to the court, one that has added other elements to the young team's growth. 

"Tonight our heart was there," Bearcats head coach Jill Vote said. "In the third quarter, we had a stretch where we didn't finish on some of our shots, but we were in it until the very end when we had a foul in the last minute. I told the girls tonight that I was very proud of their effort, but we see we can compete with these teams to build up our confidence and we want to keep working" 

The Bearcats growing sense of confidence came in big on the defensive end as the team recorded a handful of blocks and defensive stops early on in the game. Junior guard Danielle Hagler had a one on one defensive showdown right at the end of the third quarter, holding off a Dunseith drive to the rim, while her brothers on the sideline shouted "get her, Dan!" However, Hagler did the majority of her damage on the offensive end, dropping a team-high 22 points in the finish. 

Hagler was closely followed by junior guard Lindsey Nyhagen, who finished with 17 points and all three of North Star's 3 pointers. The final Bearcat to break into double figures in scoring was senior forward Sydney Staus, who weathered the storm under the net with 11 points. The trio has been playing basketball for only a few weeks now, but they have all been on the hardwood since August, as they are all members of the volleyball team. It's not an uncommonality in the area that volleyball players are playing basketball in the winter, however, with North Star's success in volleyball, Vote is looking to correlate that onto her team. 

"We just need to get them more comfortable by getting more games under their belt," Vote said. "This was game six I believe, so it's early on. We have some kids who haven't played varsity before, so they're learning and growing, and each game is going to present a challenge."

Tonight's challenge that the Bearcats are looking to clean up in: turnovers. North Star turned over the ball 25 times over the course of the game, with 10 coming in the fourth quarter alone. Vote said the turnovers were a result of fatigue, which would lead to softer passes. The Bearcats were outscored 19-14 in the fourth quarter, which made up almost half of the margin of loss. 

"We hit a little wall in being tired and making some soft passes in the third quarter," Vote said. "That's kind of where we got messed up in defense a few times, where they [Dunseith] hit a few 3's in a row and were able to stretch out that lead a little bit. Credit to both teams, it's a hard-fought battle, but our girls have seen that if you come with heart and intensity, you at least put yourself in the game." 

Having the heart and drive in Tuesday's game is another building block that the Bearcats are looking to add to their overall growth and confidence. North Star did return the bulk of its roster from last season but took a bigger hit in graduating a key player and losing two more to transfer. Vote said the losses have some teams in the area writing off the Bearcats, but North Star is aiming to prove that the roster is more than a bunch of volleyball players.

"As we've told the girls, they're all around athletes and can be successful in anything," Vote said. "We just need to believe in ourselves when other teams may doubt us. The team is really buying into that, becoming a family and supporting each other. That can carry us a long way if we can continue." 

At the same time, while confidence is built, North Star is gaining perspective on what to do outside of the game court in order to be on the winning side of the scoreboard. Having a taste of a close finish for the second time this season, the Bearcats are aiming at cleaning up their movement down the floor, specifically in passing. The touch up has some pressure applied as they will face another challenge in No. 9 Langdon/Edmore/Munich on Friday in Langdon. The Cardinals are on a five-game winning streak and have scored more than 60 points in all five of those games.

There are things to clean up and North Star is well aware of that, but the mental game of the Bearcats was a major factor that gave the team a fighting chance. Two years ago they lost to Dunseith by almost 30 points and last season it was by 15. Tuesday it was only by nine. 

"With each game, we're getting more comfortable in our system and our roles, Vote said. "Dunseith was ranked No. 2 in the preseason in our district and is currently ranked very high, the fact that we were in it until the end gives them confidence, but we know we can't be satisfied. Tomorrow, we have to come back to practice, preparing for a very good Langdon team, and come in with the same mindset that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain from hustling." 

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.

Dunseith 66, North Star 57 

Dunseith - 15, 13, 20, 19 - 66 

North Star -  15, 13, 16, 13 - 57 

Dunseith (5-4, 2-0) -- K. Prouty 7 3-7 26, Strong 6 10-13 25, Davis 3 2-2 8, Longie 0 0-0 3, K. Prouty 1 0-0 2,  Short 1 0-0 2. Totals 18 15-22 66

North Star (3-3, 1-1) -- Hagler 8 6-7 22, Nyhagen 2 4-4 17, Staus 5 1-1 11, Miller 1 0-1 4, Nicholas 1 0-0 2, Erickstad 0 1-2 1. Totals 19 12-15 57

3-pointers: Dunseith 5 (K. Prouty 3, Strong 1, Longie 1). North Star 3 (Nyhagen 3).