North Star drubs Benson County by 55 in 81-26 rout

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

MADDOCK – The North Star Bearcats knew they had at least one guarantee. Or one close to it, anyway. The guarantee, you may ask? Sophomore guard Dane Hagler would find his scoring chances. 25 points in his team’s 54-38 season-opening win on Dec. 13 against Drayton/Valley-Edinburg emphasized Hagler’s capability to score on a whim. 

However, it wasn’t that simple. Sure, the Bearcats could rely on Hagler’s ability to score anywhere and everywhere. But who would be the second, third and fourth option heading into their Dec. 16 game against Benson County?

North Star's Hunter Hagler (black, background) looks for an opening against the Benson County Wildcats on Dec. 16.

Timely steals, clutch free throws and a canny post presence helped net Parker Simon and the supporting staff around him enough of a cushion for Hagler in what transpired into an 81-26 shootaround against Benson County Thursday evening.

With the loss, the Wildcats start the season 0-2 for the first time since the 2016-17 season. Meanwhile, North Star’s win snaps a four-game losing streak against the Wildcats dating back to Dec. 13, 2018 (Benson County won, 58-46).

A hard fall by Parker Simon late in the third quarter did not dissuade the forward in the slightest. Instead, the sophomore quickly shot back up to his position, scooped up a pass and scored on a contested layup to end the third.

To Simon, toughness summed up the team’s performance from start to finish. 

North Star's Parker Simon prepares to shoot a free throw against the Benson County Wildcats on Dec. 16.

“That felt amazing to have that,” Simon said after the game. “I think it boosts the team’s confidence, and I think that it helped us win the game here.” 

North Star head coach Jesse Vote held a different opinion. To Vote, it simply came down to depth.

North Star’s depth quickly revealed itself early and often through the first quarter as the Bearcats galloped forward with a 15-0 run after sophomore Wildcat guard Logan Maddock made a long jumper to open the scoring.

To Vote, the depth behind Hagler showed itself not two-fold but four-fold. With five legitimate scoring options, it was only a matter of time before the youth budded and snowballed into a lopsided result in his team’s favor.

“We have four or five guys that can score 20+ points on any given night,” Vote said after the game. “Some of them probably should have scored more than that. We have some depth with the five starters we have. It is nice to see some of these other guys be aggressive, knock down some shots and build that overall confidence.” 

Momentum from a 47-10 halftime lead only continued into the third and fourth quarter as the Bearcats began to rotate their bench out with more authority. The Bearcats outscored the Wildcats by 18 points in the second half (34-16). 

Constant pressure inside the paint helped spread an already tired Wildcats defense thin. However, the emphasis on going for the layup, in Vote’s mind, only aided in setting up the mid-range and perimeter shots. 

North Star's Drew Nicholas (black, background) shoots a corner three against Benson County's Logan Fossen (white, foreground) on Dec. 16.

“We have to find our way to get ourselves jump-started,” Vote said. “That has been our problem over the last few years. We haven’t gotten that spark right away. We get into our press…we are long, lengthy and quick. We are starting to get better at anticipating, and obviously, a defensive press like that is going to lead to layups [and] lead to offense. They got that tonight, and we were able to roll right away.” 

The Bearcats found themselves with a 55-point margin of victory at the final buzzer. It was North Star’s first game with a margin of victory of at least 50 points since Jan. 8, 2021 (North Star beat Larimore, 71-17).

In Simon’s eyes, positive momentum can only make the team better in the long run. With team chemistry on North Star’s side, it is all about stepping up at the opportune moment. 

“At the beginning of the year, we knew we were going to be pretty young,” Simon said. “We have all played together since we were little kids, and we have always had fun, so coming into tonight, we knew we had to step up and do some big things, and I think we did a good job doing that.”