Looking for the best region in Class B girls basketball this season?
It's a slam dunk. Region 3 is stacked.
Four teams have been ranked in the top 10 all season and another (Kidder County) has been knocking on the door.
When region tourney time rolls around in a couple of weeks in Jamestown, Kidder County coach Dan Welder expects an excellent atmosphere.
"Our region tournament is going to be like a state tournament," Welder said. "If you don't have a specific team to follow, and just want to watch some good basketball, that tournament will be a great place to be."
Brett Thielges, coach of No. 2-ranked Medina-Pingree-Buchanan, had the exact same take.
"It's going to be like a mini-state tournament," Thielges said. "There are going to be some really good teams that are going to be disappointed at the end of that tournament, teams that could have done really well if they had been the one to make it to state."
Thielges' Thunder (17-2) have held down the No. 2 spot in the poll for much of the season, sitting comfortably behind unbeaten and top-ranked Shiloh Christian (19-0).
The lofty ranking is rarified air for all three towns in the M-P-B co-op. While meaningful, Thielges isn’t putting a ton of stock in it.
“It’s been something a lot of people have been talking about. It’s nice to see the kids get the recognition from the media,” Thielges said. “Does it mean anything? No, it really doesn’t, but to say it doesn’t matter or that we don’t check each week to see where we're at, I would be dishonest if I said that.
“It’s something the kids feel good about, the communities feel good about, but we understand in the grand scheme it’s not going to help us get a key stop on defense or get a big rebound or help us score in a critical part of a game. It’s just a number.”
In all, Region 3 hogs nearly half of the spots in the top 10 rankings in No. 3 LaMoure-Litchville-Marion (18-1), No. 4 Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier (17-2) and seventh-ranked Carrington (15-4). Also, Kidder County's been close all year. The Wolves (14-5) haven't beaten any of their region foes but do own a 14-point victory over fifth-ranked Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich (17-2).
It’s an uncommon occurrence by any measure.
"I've never seen a situation like this with this many ranked teams from the same region," Welder said. "From a pride-perspective it's a pretty neat thing because you know how good the region is. At that region tournament, you're going to have to be at your best."
Region 3 also has some of the top players in the state.
Kidder County's Grace Benz certainly applies. The 5-foot-11 senior is averaging 19.5 points, 10 rebounds and five steals per game.
"I can't say enough good things about her as a player or as a person," Welder said. "She's one of those girls that leads by example. She's a great role model for the younger generation to look up to."
Madelyn Schmidt, just a freshman, is averaging 10 points per game. Junior Jaslyn Magstadt has sank 30 3-pointers, while Brittany Rath and Kaitlin Silbernagel effectively play their roles, Welder said.
Medina-Pingree-Buchanan doesn’t have a statistical standout like Benz, rather relying on a balanced attack offensively. But where the Thunder really shine is in point-prevention. Heading into this weekend’s District 6 tournament in Hazelton, the Thunder have not allowed more than 49 points in a game all season.
M-P-B has rare size with three 6-footers in the starting lineup led by Halle Uehran, a 6-3 senior heading to Northern State to play volleyball. Uehran averages eight points, 4.5 assists and 2.5 blocks per game.
Taylor Sabinash and Jadyn Pollert, 6-foot seniors both, also have played key roles, averaging just under eight points per game apiece. Thielges said Pollert is the team’s most improved player. She will be playing basketball next season at Lake Region State in Devils Lake. Sabinash has signed to play volleyball at the University of Jamestown.
“Whether we’re man-to-man or zone, with a backline of 6-3, 6-foot and 6-foot, there’s always somebody waiting for you,” said Thielges, an alum of Region 3 himself as a fine former player at Ellendale.
The Thunder also have a strong backcourt in leading scorers Amanda Allen (12.5) and Megan Moser (10). Allen is a senior and Moser a sophomore. Gracie Bohl and Lauren Moser are key cogs off the bench.
M-P-B has been close to state a handful of times in basketball and volleyball in recent years. With a senior-laden roster, Thielges is hoping for a breakthrough.
“It’s one of those things where you hope the experience from the past will come into play and we can use it to help us get over the hump,” he said. “But in our region nothing is going to be handed to you. Whoever wins this region will truly have earned it and that’s the way it should be.”