Dakota Prairie, Nelson County continue to grow squads following split doubleheader to Finley-Sharon co-op

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Dakota Prairie boys basketball and Nelson County girls basketball faced off against Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page in a double header on Jan. 25 at Dakota Prairie Elementary School. The Knights lost 62-58 while the Chargers won 78-24.

Despite playing one after another, under the same roof and against the same school, the games that Knights' and Chargers' had played were as different as day and night. One matchup saw a squad chasing a 10 point lead from start to finish while the other was up by as many as 46 at one point.

The Knights and Chargers are two teams in different places, but both squads had one similarity in their finishes on Monday: growth. The Knights' mental blip on the court hit them hard on the free-throw line and in their offensive systems as Dakota Prairie (5-5, 2-1) fell to Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page (4-7,1-3) 62-58. In the following game, it was a consistent intensity on both ends of the court that lead Nelson County (7-6, 2-2) to its biggest win in program history of Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page (2-10, 0-7) 78-24. 

For the boy's squad, they found themselves in a hole early that proved to be a challenging setback throughout the game. The Spartans would come out firing from 3-point range, draining four 3-pointers alone in the first quarter. When the dust had settled, the Spartans were up 32-24 at halftime and had drained six 3's. 

"They stepped up and hit some shots, and it kind of took the wind out of our sail," Knights head coach Thomas Trostad said. "We started hanging our heads, and dug ourselves a hole that we almost dug ourselves out of, but didn't quite get it." 

One player that Dakota Prairie has looked to in sparking its offense is junior guard Cade Stein. The guard has led the Knights in scoring game in and game out, and the Spartans key into him to make sure he didn't get going as quickly as he usually does. Stein would finish with a team-high 25 points but would be limited to just seven between the second and third quarters. 

With the Spartans keying into Stein from tip-off, the Knights' usually offensive rhythm was thrown off and had them looking for other ways to score. Trostad said that working the offense when Stein may not be available is part of the young team's lesson in not falling into mental lapses. The Knights were able to keep within nine to 10 points of F-H/S-P throughout the game but didn't make the jump to a one-possession game until the final minutes. 

"The mental lapse was a part of the young team learning experience," Trostad said. "Their zone was tough and they were on Stein right away, so we had to manufacture looks other places and other kids got shots, but sometimes they don't fall." 

Junior guard Garrett Syverson provided a helping hand throughout the game when Stein needed it as he finished with a second-best 13 points. That 10 point deficit hung above Dakota Prairie for a long time, but the Knights applied pressure to make a run at the Spartans' lead.

Down by 11 heading into the fourth quarter, Dakota Prairie would outscore F-S/H-P, 20-18, making a run at the built-up lead. Stein would drain two 3-pointers and senior guard Blake Hanson would tack another one on to pull the Dakota Prairie within seven of the lead. The Knights were forcing turnovers and drawing the fouls that they needed to put them back into it. It was part of an intensity the Trostad said was the difference between the fourth quarter and the rest of the game. 

However, one area of the game that didn't pick up in the fourth quarter, and that the Knights told Trostad that they noticed as an issue throughout the game, was free-throw shooting. While the free-throw shooting improved by five percent in the third quarter, the trend of going 1-2 at the line continued, seeing Dakota Prairie hit only 55 percent of its free throws at 10-18 on the night.  

"The boys said in the locker room that if we made four free-throws that we would be back in it or make four more of the 18 that we missed," Trostad said. "I don't know what we're going to assess that up to, but we're going to get in the gym and fix it." 

There are things here and there that added up for the Knights, and the team is focused on breaking that down heading further into their schedule. Trostad said those small things will be easier to see and improve on in their team video session. In improving every day and not getting fazed by a loss, the Knights are back on the court Tuesday, facing Warwick in a game that will count toward regional standings. After following a win over Harvey/Wells County with a loss to F-H/S-P, Trostad said he wants his team to learn and improve from every game. 

"With a lot of guys we just need to learn from our mistakes," Trostad said. "I told them that no one here is perfect and that we are going to mess up no matter what, so how do you learn from that. Do you hang your head as we did in the first quarter or do you pick it up next play? We want to learn from this one and feel for the next day."

Like its mascot, Nelson County came charging onto the court in their tilt with the Spartans. Coming off a win against Warwick, where they put up 70 points for the first time this season, the Chargers continued that trend to finish with 78 on the night and a 54 point victory spread.

It could be seen early on that Nelson County was locking down on both ends of the court as they had scored 37 points and only allowed nine by halftime. Chargers head coach Gus Kueber attributes the win to a complete effort not just by the bulk of the roster, but in the sense of intensity. 

"They really played well from the beginning all the way to the end," Kueber said. "The problem we had in recent games was keeping up intensity when getting a lead. Recently, we played Griggs County and we had a double-digit lead and ended up falling apart. Tonight we did a great job of keeping the effort constant. It was a good team win and all the girls were into it."

Nelson County capitalized on offense but saw the majority of their conversions sparked by strong defensive play. Junior guard Marit Ellingson headed the transition game for the Chargers as her steal and score mentality would drive her to 15 points on the night, scoring six field goals. Her efforts were followed closely by junior guards Paytan Lippert and Nora Johnson, with Lippert picking up eight points, in the transition game. Kueber said that the Chargers speed is a weapon that has turned their defense into a strength

"Something we try to really teach the kids is to make those girls work," Kueber said. "We're not always looking for the steal, but I feel like our team is very well conditioned, down the stretch especially. When we put pressure on teams it's likely that we're going to have some more endurance in the second half. Anytime they [Ellingson, Lippert, and Johnson] hear me say let's get up on the press they absolutely love it." 

Dakota Prairie boys basketball and Nelson County girls basketball faced off against Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page in a double header on Jan. 25 at Dakota Prairie Elementary School. The Knights lost 62-58 while the Chargers won 78-24.

While the Chargers defensive unit had the Spartans moving, the court opened up for Nelson County's shooters, specifically senior forward Kylee Baumgarn. She would catch lightning in a bottle from outside the arc as she would drain four 3's on the night with a team-high 28 points. She would also go 2-2 at the line and put in seven shots from close.

There were a handful of Chargers that had a strong night under and around the net, but it seemed like Baumgarn couldn't miss. Along with her abilities in shooting, Kueber said that she is a major weapon for her versatility as a post player and a shooter. 

"When you're a post player that can shoot the ball like her, it makes it a lot more difficult for teams to get out there and guard her," Kueber said. "We'll run quite a few plays where she'll get that open 3-point look and if she's hitting, she's hitting. Even when she was a little cold there in the first half, she stayed consistent, had a very good form, balance on her shot and it started to fall in the second half." 

When Baumgarn was out on the arc shooting, junior center Hollie Emory was doing a lot of the cleanup work under the net as she would finish with 14 points, with 12 coming from 2-point field goal range. The Chargers were lights out from start to finish, but weren't letting off the gas no matter how large their lead grew. Why? After what happened against Griggs-Midkota, who was 3-9 before defeating Nelson County, they know that anyone can win on any given night despite their record. F-H/S-P sits in a similar position as the Titans, now at 2-10 on the season and at the bottom of the Region 2 standings, but managed to sneak in eight points in the third quarter. 

"You always look at records and see how everyone has done in the past, but every game is a new game, that's why you play it in the first place," Kueber said. "Anything can happen. In the Griggs-Midkota game, they may have had a worse record than us, but they wanted it more than us that day. Today we showed that we had to take care of business from the beginning."

The complete effort by the Chargers is one that they are looking to take into their next game, in hopes of pulling off an upset of their own. Nelson County faces off against Benson County Thursday in Leeds, a team that is currently hunting for the district crown, and possibly a regional title. The duel against the Wildcats is the Chargers' last game to determine seeding in the district tournament. 

"The girls had a great attitude here and that's something we can capitalize on," Kuber said. "We encourage the girls when they're on the bench to stay involved game and loud. We hope that continues going into this next game as well." 

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.

Finley-Sharon/Hope Page 62, Dakota Prairie 58 

Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page - 19, 13, 15, 18 

Dakota Prairie - 12, 12, 14, 20 - 58 

Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page (4-7, 1-3) --  Konig 8 1-4 17, Carlson 1 0-0 14, Zerface 1 0-0 14, Stein 2 0-1 7, Jacobson 3 1-2 7, Tuite 3 0-0 6. Totals 18 2-7 62 

Dakota Prairie (5-5, 2-1) -- Stein 4 5-8 25, Syverson 4 5-8 13, Hanson 0 0-0 9, Haakenson 2 0-0 7, Lenz 2 0-2 4. Totals 12 10-18 58. 

3-pointers: Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page 8 (Carlson 4, Zerface 3, Stein 1). Dakota Prairie 7 (Stein 3, Hanson 3, Haakenson 1). 

Nelson County 78, Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page 24 

Nelson County - 16, 21, 30, 11 - 78 

Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page - 7, 2, 8, 6 - 24 

Nelson County (7-6, 2-2) -- Baumgarn 7 2-2 28, Ellingson 6 3-5 15, Emery 6 2-2 14, P. Lippert 1 0-0 8, Johnson 2 0-0 4, K. Lippert 1 2-2 4, McKay 0 0-0 3, Parsley 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 9-13 78.

Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page (2-10, 0-7) -- Zerface 4 4-5 12, Mitchell 1 3-4 5, H. Zerface 1 0-2 2, Stromsodt 1 0-1 2, Larson 1 0-0 2, Mehas 0 1-2 1. Totals 8 8-14 24.

3-pointers: Nelson County 7 (Baumgarn 4, P. Lippert 2, McKay 1). Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page 0.