The B Beat with Harry Lipsiea: It's Class B tournament time

Harry Lipsiea

Harry Lipsiea

This can't be right. It just doesn't seem any possible way that tournament time is upon us. I can't believe how much it has sneaked up on us this year.

Believe it or not, the North Dakota Class B girls basketball postseason opens up for many teams this weekend. Locally, the District 7 and District 8 tournaments each kick off Friday at Four Winds and Rolla, respectively.

Both events will be held Friday, Saturday and Monday to determine the four teams in each district to punch tickets to the Region 4 Tournament that kicks off Feb. 22 in Devils Lake.

Looking at the pairings, I can tell you both tourneys are going to be full of exciting matchups. I'm not going to make any picks for these games and that's good news for me, because there are going to be so many games up in the air.

While nothing is ever set in stone, it seems that things are tighter (specifically in District 7) than ever. I can guarantee you this: there will be upsets. In my opinion, there will be at least one team in both District 7 and District 8 seeded below fourth in its respective district to qualify for regionals.

I think District 7 is wide open. I wouldn't be surprised by anything happening in this tournament. With that said, Warwick has deserved the top seed by running the table in conference play.

In District 8, North Star is far and away the favorite. But there is some nice balance in the district that should make for some interesting second-and-third round tournament contests.

Let's take a look at first-round matchups for both tournaments starting this Friday.

District 7

No. 4 Benson County vs. No. 5 New Rockford-Sheyenne

The first matchup of the tournament features the four and five pitting Benson County, 7-12, and New Rockford-Sheyenne against each other. Earlier this season, the Wildcats overwhelmed the Rockets 66-40 at home. In that game, the home squad jumped out to a quick start and never looked back.

I think the key to this contest will be who can establish the tempo. Benson County and New Rockford-Sheyenne both like to get up and down the court using pressure defense to translate into baskets.

The Rockets are a very young team fueled by the play of juniors Olivia Smith, Elizabeth Holzwarth and Rebecca Allmaras. While the squad lacks height, New Rockford-Sheyenne features excellent quickness.

Benson County returns some nice experience in Dani Schwanke and Kaylee Lybeck from last season. The Wildcats have put together a nice late-season charge winning their final three conference games.

No. 2 Harvey-Wells County vs. No. 7 Dakota Prairie

It will be a contest between the two and seven seeds in the second game of the day of the District 7 tournament as Harvey-Wells County, 10-9, and Dakota Prairie, 5-13, meet up. Despite the seedings, these two teams played a nail-biter earlier in the season with the Hornets earning a 51-48 road victory.

Dakota Prairie is a squad that has had a lot of close calls throughout the season. One area the Knights have a big advantage is experience. The squad has five seniors on the roster that all know exactly what to expect. Look for Dakota Prairie to put together a strong performance at districts and give themselves a shot at qualifying for regionals.

It's been a nice season for Harvey-Wells County. The extremely young squad has relied on the solid play of its backcourt and strong defense throughout the season. After getting out to a bit of a slow start, the Hornets have put together a nice run in the home stretch. Behind its ability to play team basketball and shut down opponents, Harvey-Wells County will be a tough out.

No. 3 Four Winds-Minnewaukan vs. No. 6 Lakota/Edmore

The final game of the opening night features an extremely interesting matchup in my opinion. Four Winds- Minnewaukan, 13-6, will take on Lakota-Edmore, 7-12, in a contest featuring the third and six seeds, respectively. Earlier in the season, the Indians walked away with an overtime win over the Raiders.

Many looked for it to be a rebuilding season for Lakota-Edmore. Last year's District 7 and Region 4 champion lost a huge chunk of its team a year ago due to graduation. The Raiders returned just two players with any varsity experience. With that said, the youthful Lakota-Edmore team has a very nice season and has really come on as of late. The squad is going into the tournament coming off of a close loss to a solid Langdon-Munich team and a 20-point win over Larimore. There is no doubt about it: the Raiders will be a tough out this tournament season.

After qualifying for regionals a season ago, the Four Winds-Minnewaukan girls basketball program has made strides again during the 2015-2016 campaign. The experienced squad has used athleticism and aggressive defense to achieve a 13-6 record. The Indians have won their last two games including a nice 50-45 win over Midkota-Kensal. I look for the No. 3 seed squad to make a return to regionals.

Bye: No. 1 Warwick

What a season for Warwick. After battling inexperience the last couple of seasons, the Warriors are battle tested. The top seed in District 7 dropped four straight early on in the year and went on to win nine straight contests. The Warriors ran the table in the conference, going 6-0 against District 7 competition.

Whisper Gourd and Madison Leaf are a pair of two-year starters who give the Warriors solid experience. Warwick comes into the tournament with a lot of confidence and with something to prove. They will be right there battling for a District 7 crown.

District 8

G1: #4 Rolette-Wolford vs. #5 St. John

St. John, 5-13, and Rolette-Wolford, 13-6, meet in the first game of the District 8 Tournament in a four versus five matchup. If the first two times the teams played each other says anything, it should be a competitive contest. The Comets won both games by one and 11 points, respectively.

St. John has had a lot of close games throughout the season. Led by pure shooter Mhaddie Poitra, the Woodchucks have made strides throughout the season. The key for St. John is to establish the tempo and have success in transition. If the squad can do that, the Woodchucks will be in position to punch their ticket to the region tournament.

Rolette-Wolford is riding a huge wave of momentum going into the tournament. After a tough three-game skid in January, the Comets have won its last six games, including wins over highly-regarded squads Our Redeemer's and Warwick. The four seed in District 8 is led by a huge front court that features 6-foot-2 All-Region performer Lexy Wittmayer. Sophomore 6-footer Kinze Martinson provides additional size and strength inside. Rolette-Wolford has all the makings of a team that could make a deep run in the post-season.

G2: #3 Dunseith vs. #6 Rolla

Dunseith, 10-8, and Rolla, 0-19, meet in the second game Friday in the District 8 Tournament. The Dragons walked away with a 62-33 win in the meeting of the two teams during the regular season.

Despite not winning a game this season, the Bulldogs have made strides as the season has gone on. The squad has been much more competitive in the second half of the season. I believe the key for the Bulldogs is defense.

If the team can limit possessions and create turnovers, Rolla will put itself in position to earn its first of the season this postseason.

Dunseith has made a lot of strides as a program this year. The Dragons are looking to get back into the Region 4 Tournament. The squad has a nice balance of experience and youth including All-District performer Davian Gladue. I look for Dunseith to use its athleticism to walk away from districts with a spot in the Region 4 tourney.

Bye: No. 2 Langdon-Munich

Coming into the tournament with a full head of steam is always the goal of a coaching staff. Langdon-Munich comes into districts with seven straight marks in the win column, including wins over Drayton-Valley Edinburg, Rolette-Wolford and Four Winds-Minnewaukan. To me, the biggest strength for the Cardinals is its depth. Langdon-Munich has the ability to dig deep into its bench. I look for that balance and depth to be key for the Cardinals as they make it back to regionals.

Bye: No. 1 North Star

Another year and another conference title for the North Star girls basketball team. It's been quite the run for the Bearcats this season. After dropping a tough one to Four Winds-Minnewaukan in December, North Star has been unstoppable, winning 13 straight. The biggest indication of where the Bearcats are at is what teams the top seed from District 8 has beaten. The Bearcats have edged top 10 teams like Carrington, Rugby and Park River/Fordville-Lankin.

North Star is the big favorite going in and it will take a top-flight effort for anyone to knock them off.

They are that tough.