FARGO — At a time when the coronavirus has halted sporting events worldwide and nationwide, with teams and organizers cancelling, postponing or setting strict guidelines for contests, the North Dakota Class A state high school basketball tournaments are still scheduled to take place in Fargo this week.
The Class A girls tournament is set to begin Thursday in the Fargodome while the boys tournament's opening-round games will be played in North Dakota State's Scheels Center at the Sanford Health and Athletic Complex.
Matt Fetsch, executive director of the North Dakota High School Activities Association, told The Forum that the tournaments will run as scheduled. When Fetch said this, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Dakota as of Tuesday afternoon.
Late Wednesday night, the North Dakota Department of Health and CDC reported North Dakota's first presumptive case of COVID-19 in a Ward County resident.
“We’ve been in contact with the North Dakota Department of Health and the CDC for over a week right now," Fetsch said before Wednesday night's breaking news. "With the guidance we’ve been getting, there’s been no indication that we would need to change our plans. We’re monitoring it regularly, so with the information we’ve received we’re proceeding with our planned events.”
That's good news for the 16 teams that will be playing in the girls and boys tournaments — including the boys team from West Fargo Sheyenne.
Sheyenne is on a roll entering this week's state tournament, coming in as the top seed from the East Region with a 22-2 record. The Mustangs came up one win short of reaching the state tournament last year.
The Mustangs reclaimed the East Region crown, winning it for the second time in three seasons, defeating Fargo Davies 68-48 Saturday, March 7, at the SHAC. Davies topped Sheyenne in both meetings in the regular season; it was the Mustangs’ first win over the Eagles since 2018. The win was the 102nd for three of the coaches — Tom Kirchoffner, Tom Kirchoffner Sr. and Tim Brandt.
Sheyenne faces No. 4 West seed Dickinson (14-10) in the state quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Thursday at the SHAC.
The Mustangs have had a historic season, setting four school records — most Eastern Dakota Conference wins in a season (18), most consecutive wins (12), most assists (452) and least opponent points allowed (54.1). If Sheyenne picks up a quarterfinal win, the team will break a fifth: most wins in a season (23).
Sheyenne solidified its trek to the state tournament with an experienced roster. A strong core of seniors, who were freshmen when the first team went to state and sophomores when Sheyenne played in a state title game, have paced Sheyenne.
The Mustangs get help offensively from a trio of scorers in that group, all of whom were named to the all-EDC team and sit in the conference’s top-10 in scoring. Blake Berg, the EDC’s third-leading scorer, averages at least 15 points per game. Zion Dettmann puts up 14 points per game and Tyler Terhark follows with about 13.9.
The Mustangs also have height as an advantage, boasting the biggest player the program has ever had come through, Jacksen Moni, who went from 6-foot-4 to 6-9 in a year’s time.
Dickinson will be paired up against a Sheyenne team that's strong on both ends of the court. The Mustangs are the highest-scoring team in the East Region, averaging 79.10 points per game, and have the second-lowest points allowed with 56.62.
In the opening round, the Mustangs will have to stop a dynamic pair from Dickinson — 5-foot-11 senior guard Kobe Krenz, the third-highest scorer in the Western Dakota Association, averaging 24.5 points per game, and 6-foot-1 senior guard Jaiden Wright, who scores about 20.3. The Midgets average 72 points per game.