Ranked foes Ray, New Town clash in Region 8 tilt

It may be a non-district game, but there is plenty on the line when ninth-ranked Ray hosts No. 3 New Town tonight at 7:15 p.m.

The Jays (12-0, 5-0 District 16) have lost their last six meetings with the Eagles dating back to the 2006-07 season. Ray played New Town tough in its first matchup last season, dropping a 62-56 decision. The second game was not as close as the Eagles won by 26 points.

Ray continues to build on a successful season, defeating 10th-ranked and previously unbeaten Parshall 73-54 on Tuesday.

“It was a good game for us,” Ray coach Kelli Heier said. “We picked up our speed and we’re just hoping to stick with New Town and have a good game against them.”

For New Town, tonight’s game is about maintaining the momentum the Eagles (11-1, 1-0 District 15) have built since dropping a 15-point game to top-ranked Bishop Ryan in their second game of the season.

Since that loss in the “Shootout on the Prairie,” the Eagles have won every game by double figures. Their closest game was a 68-57 victory against Watford City. New Town coach Orville Drosdal said the loss to Ryan served as an eye-opener for his Eagles.

“It was a good learning lesson early in the year that we can be beat and we have to come ready to play every night,” he said.

In New Town’s 11 victories, the Eagles have outscored opponents by an average of 41 points per game. Despite the lopsided victories, New Town is expecting to be tested in its next two games beginning tonight at Ray. Two days later, the Eagles host Parshall in what could determine the top seed in the District 15 tournament.

“We’re looking forward to this week against Ray and Parshall, two quality opponents,” Drosdal said. “We definitely can’t fall asleep on Thursday and look ahead to the district game on Saturday.”

– Mike Kraft

District battles heating up as season hits home stretch

District tournaments begin in a month, but there are still many games to be played before the fog is lifted on seedings and matchups.

Nine of the 16 districts have at least two teams tied atop the standings, while three other district leaders have just a one-game lead over the current second-place foe.

The Ray and New Town girls basketball teams are each in a battle for the No. 1 seed in their respective districts. The Jays (12-0, 5-0 District 16) have to fend off Trenton (10-3, 4-0) and both squads still have to play Stanley (7-4, 3-1). Ray beat Trenton early in the season during the Tioga tournament.

“New Town is definitely the top team in the region,” Ray coach Kelli Heier said. “There’s also us and Parshall and Watford City. Trenton is going to surprise some people as well. They are an up-and-coming team.”

It’s a three-team race in District 15, with both New Town (11-1, 1-0) and Parshall (11-1, 2-0) controlling their own destinies. The teams meet in Parshall on Saturday with the winner having the inside track on the No. 1 seed.

Watford City (11-2, 3-1) would need a lot of help to steal the top spot from either team, but a No. 2 seed is not out of the realm of possibility. If New Town defeats Parshall, Watford City could seal the second seed by defeating the Braves in the district finale on Feb. 19.

“It’s going to be a pretty big game, but in our district there are three really good teams and three that kind of drop off,” Watford City coach John Zenz said. “Whether we’re seeded first, second or third won’t have a huge impact going into regionals. Obviously, we’d like to get the win, but it won’t death if we don’t.”

Four teams are in the running for the top seed in District 10. Washburn (7-5 overall, 4-1 district) currently owns the tiebreaker with Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky (6-6, 4-1) after a 43-40 victory two weeks ago. TL-M-M defeated Washburn in the McLean County tournament in early January, but the Cardinals topped the Trojans when it mattered the most. Underwood (8-3, 3-1) and Wilton-Wing (7-6, 3-1) are each a half-game back and play one another tonight.

– Mike Kraft

Bishop Ryan wrestlers eye second straight state appearence

When the Region III team wrestling tournament comes to Bishop Ryan on Saturday, its host will have an opportunity to build on success from last year.

If the Lions finish in the top two, they’ll return to state for the second straight season after a nine-year absence.

“(Our goals have) been the same the whole year,” Ryan coach Chase Lee said. “Qualify for the team dual at state. It’s big for our school and it’s big for our program.”

To get there, they’ll have to top either Velva or Stanley-Powers Lake-Tioga-Ray. A four-point loss to Velva is Ryan’s only blemish this year. The Aggies’ only loss was a 39-35 defeat to S-PL-T-R.

“Two very good dual teams that have some good kids that we’ll have to outwrestle,” Lee said.

“Both teams should be able to fill their rosters up this weekend. It makes it difficult knowing you’re probably not going to get any forfeits. You have to have pretty good strategy.”

Velva won the region title last year by topping the Lions 57-9. Ryan then lost all three matches at the state tournament.

The Aggies have a region-high six grapplers (Dallas Osborn, Adam Dean, Hunter Schreiner, Kiel Werre, Jimi Bridges and Taylor Barstad) ranked No. 1 in the Region 3 poll. Aaron Sandy, Tyler Allers and Mason Kramer are top-ranked for Ryan.

– Adam Lawson

District 12 Super Saturday provides potential preview

When things tip off at the Minot Municipal Auditorium for District 12 Super Saturday this weekend, fans will be gifted with an early preview to tournament play.

As things stand right now, No. 10 Berthold, last year’s region champs, and Des Lacs-Burlington, preseason Region 6 favorites, are unbeaten in district play. The winner this weekend has the inside track to the top seed and bragging rights entering the postseason.

Bishop Ryan and Our Redeemer’s are tied in third and will meet to likely settle that tie on Tuesday. This weekend, each has games it should win; the Knights against 1-4 Surrey and the Lions against 1-4 Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood.

In Super Saturday’s other contest, Kenmare aims for its first district win against 2-3 Glenburn and high-scoring senior Houston Lavachek.

– Adam Lawson