Will a team from Region one finish as number one at the end of the year? Can a surprise team emerge to push some of the usual suspects at the top? There’s no drama like Class B boys basketball drama. Trimming a list down to ten is a challenge, but I feel pretty good that the ten teams below will have a great shot at making it to Minot at the end of the year. Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom to check out our top ten players to watch, too. Good luck to all the teams and enjoy the season!
Boys Class B
Picking a preseason number one was far from easy. Enderlin has some outstanding talent, but the fact remains the Eagles have failed to reach the region championship game each of the last two years. I pegged Kindred as my #9 team last year in this blog and they ended up rattling off a 21-4 record capping things off with the program’s first state title. This year, the Vikings will have to be ready for every team’s best shot. The key to Kindred’s success last year was defense. They led the state by holding teams to 42 points per game last year and held Edgeley-K-M to a measly 34 points in the state championship game. They did lose their towering presence in the post in 6’9” Gavin Keller to graduation but do return a solid nucleus of players from that championship run. 6’4” senior Paul Olson (12 ppg, 4 rpg, 24 stls, 16 blks) is back after dropping in a game-high 23 points in the state championship. The all-region pick is very athletic and has really improved his perimeter shot according to head coach Brad Woehl. Fellow senior Jaiden Peraza (9.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 22 stls, 41 ast) really came on strong at the end of last year and ended up making the all-tournament team at state. He’s a versatile 6’6” post that has the strength to play in the paint and can jump out of the gym. 6’5” senior Max McQuillan just quarterbacked the football team to a state title and he’s ready to carry that momentum over to the hardwood. McQuillan is not only a good passer on the football field, but he can do it on the hardwood too. He’s the top returning assist man in Class B after registering 171 assists last season. That trio along with an outstanding supporting cast make the Vikings the team to beat in the 2021-22 season.
The Eagles have heard or read all the criticism. They know they’ve fallen short of expectations the last few seasons, but they’re hoping all those bumps in the road will feel smoother on a drive to Minot in March. Calvin Kraft’s team will once again be led by the Hurlburt twin towers, Joe and Gus. Joe recently put pen to paper on signing to play for the University of Colorado in the PAC 12. The 6’10” post (22.6 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 107 ast, 34 blks, 39 3-ptrs) was a stat stuffer last season and will have a good chance at breaking the all-time North Dakota record for rebounds this winter. The Mr. Basketball favorite already holds the career and single season school records for points, rebounds and assists. He can score in a variety of ways and makes it difficult for the opponent to score on the interior. Gus Hurlburt (18 ppg, 7 rpg, 36 ast, 17 3-ptrs) is a returning all-region player that can do many of the same things that Joe does, which is why he’s being recruited by D1 and D2 programs in the region. Senior point guard Alijah Dixson (7.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 43 stls, 66 ast) is the straw that stirs the drink and has a chance to really erupt in his final varsity season. 6’6” junior Carson Bartholomay (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 59 ast, 33 3-ptrs) is another returning all-region selection that has great length with polished ball-handling skills. Look for junior Trey Wall to make an impact on varsity after averaging 21 points per game for the junior varsity squad last year. This Enderlin team has enough talent to win a state championship, but they’ll have to get over a mental hurdle once the postseason arrives.
3. Four Winds-Minnewaukan
Four Winds-Minnewaukan will be seeking a 3rd consecutive state tournament bid and I see Rick Smith’s group fulfilling those expectations. The Indians will be led by returning all-region pick and senior Jayden Yankton (16 ppg, 5 rpg, 61 stls, 54 3-ptrs) who led the team in scoring last year. Yankton is a superb shooter from outside and his game should take a big jump entering his 3rd season in the varsity lineup. The Indians do have to replace a class of eight seniors, but I feel they have the up-and-comers to do it. Sophomore Deng Deng is a rising prospect that can score from anywhere on the floor. His raw athletic ability gives him a chance to be one of the best players on both sides of the floor. Don’t be surprised if the Indians start slow. As usual, Rick Smith has put together a daunting schedule featuring matchups with Enderlin and Beulah right off the bat. I’m more intrigued at how this team will look come February and into March.
I’m sure there are a handful of coaches in region seven and across the state that are questioning how many years of eligibility Trey Brandt has, but the senior is back to lead the Miners this winter. Brandt (24.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 72 stls, 104 ast, 42 3-ptrs) earned 1st team all-state accolades last season and is the top returning scorer in Class B. He also has a good chance at becoming the Beulah’s all-time leading scorer. The future Minot State Beaver does a great job of running the team’s offense from the point guard spot, but his scoring ability makes him such a deadly weapon along with his knack for delivering in the clutch. I’m sure his dad and head coach Jeremy Brandt will be soaking up this final season of coaching Trey. Trapper Skalsky helps bolster the backcourt for Beulah with his scoring production and his versatility to beat defenders in the post and from mid-range. Outside of those two, the Miners will be relying on some junior varsity players to come in and contribute right away at the next level. Look for senior Brooks Vigessa, junior Jack Koppelsloen and sophomore Trace Beauchamp to help carry the load offensively following their solid junior varsity campaigns.
The Skyhawks return a trio of starters from last year’s team that made it four consecutive trips to state for the Shiloh Christian. 6’6” senior Carter Englund (13 ppg, 8 rpg) is the leader of the group and has been working to add to his game by improving on his ball handling and outside shot according to head coach Brad Miller. Senior Mabahi Baker will run the point once again after averaging 9 pts and 4 ast as a junior. Shiloh has some great size this year, which they believe will translate to them being strong on the glass. I expect them to be one of the top outside shooting teams in the state, as well. There will be a new look to the schedule for the Skyhawks now that districts nine and ten are combining to be Super Region five similar to what regions one, two and seven have done. I’m expecting Shiloh Christian and Flasher to meet for the region five championship for the third year in a row.
6. North Border
I’m really intrigued to see how the Eagles perform this season. They have some strong talent returning highlighted by the trio of 6’5” senior Jaxen Johnson (11.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 36 stls, 22 blks), 6’5” junior Ayden Stainbrook (15.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 23 stls, 26 blks, 37 3-ptrs) and 5’11” junior TJ Cosley (14.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 63 stls, 89 ast). I had all three written down as candidates for my top ten list, but I just ran out of spots. Feel free to use that as motivation, fellas. Jaxen Johnson is coming off a great fall in which he was named the 6-man football player of the year in the state after leading the Eagles to the 6-man state championship. He’s a gifted athlete that can take over in the paint. Stainbrook led the team in scoring last season and is tough for defenses to matchup with because of his size and outside shooting ability. He should be one of the top scorers in the state again this winter. Cosley brings the energy for this bunch and can be a menace on defense. Depth is a concern, but if the Eagles can stay healthy, I see them being in the mix for a state tournament berth.
What should we expect from the Titans this winter? They finished 5th at the state tournament but graduated eight seniors off last year’s squad that finished 23-4. The four losses (Enderlin, Beulah, Mott-Regent, Kindred) came by a combined ten points, including two games that needed more than regulation. It was the Titans that ended up playing the closest game with Kindred at the state tournament, allowing a 5-point halftime lead to slip away in a 46-43 defeat to the eventual state champions. That’s all in the rear-view mirror now as long-time head coach Greg Grinsteinner leads a group with little varsity experience. The silver-lining is that the JV and C teams had terrific seasons last year. Look for senior Aiden Haich to be one of the team leaders. He can stretch the defense with his good shooting ability. Haich was the key to the team reaching state last year as he scored 11 of the team’s 16 points in the region championship overtime victory over Beulah. Jake Shobe scored a team-high 15 points in that game as a freshman. He’ll take on a larger role for the Titans this year after playing as the team’s 6th man a year ago. A challenging schedule early will tell us a lot about how we should frame our expectations for Trinity.
After missing out the past two seasons, the Cardinals are on a mission to return to The B. They return some of their top players from last year’s squad that finished 18-5 overall. 6’8” senior Scott Wagner (18.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg) will be at the top of the scouting report when opposing teams plan for a matchup with Ellendale. In addition to averaging a double-double each of the last two seasons, Wagner is the top returning shot blocker in the state. The two-time all-state selection is a force in the paint and has worked on extending his shooting range to become an even tougher matchup. For Wagner, it’ll be a blessing just to walk on the court this season after he rolled his car in May. He nearly thought his playing career was over after suffering a broken right clavicle, two fractured vertebrae and a broken left wrist and thumb in the one-vehicle accident. He was forced to be patient in recovery but was eventually cleared to play by doctors this summer and has been working hard to prepare for his senior season. I spent time with Scott late this summer for a feature story I’m working on and I can assure you, he’ll be ready. Wagner’s presence in the post will open things up for talented juniors Levi Reis (7.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2 apg) and Riley Thorpe (11 ppg, 3 rpg, 54 3-ptrs). LaMoure-Litchville-Marion will be Ellendale’s biggest challenge in district five.
There’s plenty of optimism surrounding the Flasher Bulldogs this season following a region 5 runner-up finish last season. The Bulldogs return a trio of starters that won 18 games last season but couldn’t get past Shiloh Christian in the postseason. 6’3” senior Jace Friesz (23.2 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 41 stls, 83 ast, 29 blks) is the headliner of the group after being named an all-state player as a junior. Head coach Brian Nieuwsma labels him the heart and soul of the team and Jace has the work ethic to back that up. Look for his younger brother Javin (16.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 29 stls, 61 3-ptrs) to continue his rise up the ranks after an outstanding freshman season. Javin is a dead-eye shooter and super athletic. He has all-state potential the next few seasons. Senior Braxton Hatzenbuhler (6.1 ppg, 5 rpg, 120 ast, 27 blks) is an outstanding defender that’ll be a steady contributor on offense too.
10. Powers Lake
The Ranchers have won a pair of region titles over the past three seasons and I think they’ll have a good chance to make it back-to-back trips this winter. Head coach Jordan Carlson has his work cut out for him though having to replace the production left behind by five seniors who helped lead Powers Lake to a 22-4 record and 7th place finish at state in 2020-21. Tyson Enget (15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 100 stls, 103 ast) was electric as a sophomore last season finishing up his year by being named to the all-region and all-state tournament teams. Look for him to terrorize teams on both ends of the floor all winter long. Fellow juniors Luke Fraunfelter (2 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and Gracin Schroeder (5 ppg, 4 rpg, 40 stls) will be leaned on as leaders, too.
Top 10 Players to Watch:
Trey Brandt, Beulah Sr. – 24.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 72 stls, 104 ast, 42 3-ptrs
Tyson Enget, Powers Lake Jr. – 15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 100 stls, 103 ast
Jace Friesz, Flasher Sr. – 23.2 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 41 stls, 83 ast, 29 blks
Zach Hendrickson, Our Redeemers Sr. – 23 ppg, 5 rpg, 78 ast, 66 3-ptrs
Joe Hurlburt, Enderlin Sr. – 22.6 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 107 ast, 34 blks, 39 3-ptrs
Gus Hurlburt, Enderlin Sr. – 18 ppg, 7 rpg, 36 ast, 17 3-ptrs
Gannon Limke, Hillsboro-CV Sr. – 15.8 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 42 stls, 37 blks
Paul Olson, Kindred Sr. – 12 ppg, 4 rpg, 24 stls, 16 blks
Scott Wagner, Ellendale Sr. – 18.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg
Jayden Yankton, Four Winds Sr. – 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 61 stls, 54 3-ptrs