Battle tested, Langdon/Edmore/Munich leaves Minot deeper than it was before

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Langdon/Edmore/Munich defeated Kenmare, 53-40, for fifth place in the NDHSAA Class B girls basketball state tournament on March 6 at the Minot State Dome.

Following the final buzzer and the "awards ceremony" of the Cardinals' fifth place game against Kenmare, head coach Rob Scherr gathered his team under the north basket at the Minot State Dome. 

It's been a long season for the Cardinals. After losing summer ball, wherein a regular season they would figure out their systems, it was a battle with themselves throughout the season. L/E/M spent the season looking for their identity and what kind of team they were. 

Eventually, things came together late in the season off of their defense, and managed to clinch a spot in the state tournament. However, the offensive struggles would flare in Minot, knocking the Cardinals into consolation early. Despite everything and what some people tell him about "ugly" their game might look, Scherr told his squad that they have nothing to be ashamed of and still accomplished a major feat in finishing in fifth in the state. 

"We struggled at times during the year, but we kept going, working and trying to find the piece," Scherr said. "We found the piece in our defense and we started to pick it up, and play more people. People come and say man that was an ugly game. Well, it was an ugly game because we couldn't score, but you wouldn't believe all the people that come and say that they love watching us play defense...I thought they defended hard as heck for three dang days...Proud as heck about how they played and went after it defensively." 

Langdon//Edmore/Munich looked to its defense throughout the entire postseason and rolled off of what it gave them. There were some struggles in balancing the fierce attacking defense and the patient, slow approach on offense, however, the Cardinals were able to find some clarity in that on Saturday in a 53-40 win over the Honkers for fifth place. 

The easing out of the offense came not just from its veteran players, but its bulk younger core that saw heavy varsity minutes for the first time in their careers this season. Freshmen Jaya Henderson and Jaylin Swanson have been on an upward trend this entire season and would finish off the year falling into the three-way tie for points in the final game with 12. 

Throughout the state tournament, Swanson has evened out here defensive and offensive performances. Fouling out against Carrington on Thursday, Swanson began lowering the foul count and upping her point total. Along with five rebounds and two steals, she tapped into her offensive game to expand the overall effort. 

Henderson has been on the rise in scoring throughout the season and has stood out as an offensive weapon to fill in for senior Kaylee Lowery next season. She went 4-9 from the field and 3-5 from the line. Freshman Cora Badding has also been an offensive constant for the Cardinals, showing throughout the postseason that while 6-foot-1-inch, she can drain it from anywhere on the court.

"They're going to be tougher than heck next year," Scherr said. "They're a basketball bunch, play well together, move the ball and this is just going to help them get even better. I believe this is a key for next year on how they performed tonight." 

Even in their lowest point of the season, L/E/M found a key to tap into that went beyond talent and their starting five: the bench. The Cardinals have rotated in JV players, the bench, and the starting five throughout the postseason, and have come accustomed to the rotation. Junior guard Whitney Pankratz has stepped up in the state tournament as a key factor in the Cardinals offensive set up and eighth grader Meredith Romfo has shown progression late as well. 

The depth was an edge L/E/M had that most teams didn't. At one point in the game against Kenmare, a Cardinals substitution looked more like a hockey line change almost the entire L/E/M lineup switched out, and the pace did not change for the Cardinals. L/E/M has run nine as of late, and if the game opened up they could've run all 12. The Cardinals' ability to go deep has come in big just for the fact that they can go to anyone at any time.

"Tonight, there was an I couple girls that didn't have their best game, and we were able to go to someone else," Scherr said. "It's a lot more calming and takes off a lot of pressure for these kids. The biggest dream of a coach is consistency, and this year we didn't have much, which is why we went to the bench and subbing. We found a lot more consistency and the bench is a lot more relaxed." 

While the Cardinals' depth on the bench has been huge for them, along with the young talent, they are bringing back a major weapon that has been a constant all season: junior Morgan Freije. When the offense was in a lull, Freije was still posting double figures in scoring and centralized in L/E/M's defensive culture. Against Kenmare, she had 12 points along with a team-high eight rebounds, six coming on the defensive end.

Freije has been an equation that a lot of teams in the state have struggled to solve, offering a height and speed advantage. In adjusting her own game after senior losses this season, she hasn't broken stride when it comes to her own game. 

In then there are L/E/M's two seniors in Lowery and senior Lexis Olson. Lowery has been a fixture on offense while Olson has given the Cardinals a major height advantage on defense. In a season where adjustments needed to be made, Lowery and Olson were navigators in that.

Going back to three months ago, Scherr was asking Olson and Lowery where the senior leadership was as L/E/M would drop its season opener to Benson County. While L/E/M did go without a true captain this year, Olson and Lowery were able to perfect their games to help the better well-being of the team. 

"I thought it was unfair of us as coaches to say that they were leaders early in the season when they were followers for such a long time," Scherr said. "You don't just automatically become a leader. You have to earn it by your actions and all of that and it was adding stress for them to be captains. So we took that away and it helped their games." 

Langdon heads out of this season driving towards the next. Having a younger group show so much potential at the highest level of North Dakota Class B basketball is motivating them back on the court to get better.

"Four Winds is bringing their whole team back, so that's a big thing there," Scheer said. "I tell you what, I think a lot of teams that watch us play think oh god you got a lot of good young kids there." 

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

Langdon/Edmore/Munich 53, Kenmare 40

Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 10, 16, 14, 13 - 53

Kenmare - 6, 16, 8, 10 - 40 

Langdon/Edmore/Munich - Swanson 5 2-2 12, Freije 5 2-2 12, Henderson 4 3-5 12, Badding 2 2-2 6, Lowery 1 3-4 5, Olson 1 2-2 4, Romfo 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 14-17 53.

Kenmare - Stroklund 6 1-2 13, Miller 5 0-0 13, K. Zimmer 3 2-3 10, Skar 1 0-0 3, Rodin 0 1-2 1. Totals 15 4-7 40. 

3-pointers: Langdon/Edmore/Munich 1 (Henderson 1). Kenmare 6 (Miller 3, K. Zimmer 2, Skar 1).