Region 7 is typically one of the most competitive regions in Class B anything.
The 2011-12 boys basketball season should be no exception. In fact, veteran Dickinson Trinity coach Gregg Grinsteinner said this may be one of the most competitive seasons yet.
"I think there are seven or eight teams that could win the region," said Grinsteinner, who is in his 18th season at Trinity. "There are a lot of senior-dominated teams that return a lot of skilled people. The key is staying healthy and of course playing good ball."
In District 14, Trinity returns a host of letterwinners who played on last year's fourth-place state tournament team. They include starters Isiah Binstock, Christian Olson and Dylan Fridrich. Mason Schiff, Brandon Sickler, Jesse Kubik, Austin Gawryluk and Jacob Volk saw extensive time off the bench.
"We played 11, 12 kids a game, so our bench kids got a lot of minutes, which should make this year's transition a little easier," Grinsteinner said. "Our kids peaked at the right time last year. We know what it takes to compete at the highest level."
The Titans, however, lost point guard Alex Klug, the Region 7 senior athlete of the year, to graduation.
"That's a tough loss, but we have a pretty good group of guards that can take over his duties," Grinsteinner said.
Grinsteinner thinks highly of the Beulah Miners, who won the District 14 championship for the second year in a row and placed third in the region tournament.
The Miners played most of the campaign without standout Casey Duppong, who suffered a broken wrist nine games into the season. Duppong, a senior who started on Beulah's 2010 state tournament team, was averaging 14.3 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists at the time of his injury.
Other returning starters are Jesse Hettich (12.5 points), Trevor Zacher (13.6 ppg) and Cody Nelson (6 ppg,
2 rpg). Noah Iverson (2.7 ppg, 2 rpg), Tanner Dolbec, Karson Hintz and Erik Ham played well off the bench.
"We are a very versatile team with many kids who are able to play different positions," Beulah coach Jeremy Brandt said.
Hazen should be a strong district contender this season after rebuilding in 2010-11. The Bison return four starters, three of whom averaged double-figure points - Stetson Carr 13.9, Collin Lindquist 11.1 and Josh Rothe 10.2. In addition, each averaged around six rebounds per game.
Jon Doll (5.8 ppg,
2.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.1 spg) also returns to the starting lineup.
The Bison had a deep bench last season with Tyler Parker (3.8 ppg,
3.8 rpg), Michael Maas
(5.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Dominick Opp, Kyle Lindquist and Austin Cieslak.
Killdeer's top returning player is senior Austyn Sadowsky, who averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists per game as a junior.
Nick Klatt was the Cowboys' sixth man last year.
Richardton-Taylor and Glen Ullin-Hebron both fielded young teams last season, and that will be the case again this winter.
R-T's top returner is sophomore Lane Voltz, who averaged 10 points per game. Junior Chad Gullickson posted averages of
7 points and 5 rebounds. The lone senior on the roster, Dakota Messer, averaged 4 points and 5 boards as a junior.
GU-H returns just two letterwinners - seniors Cameron Morman and Dylan Diede.
An all-out battle for the top spot is expected in District 13. Defending champion New England looks good again. The Tigers return starters Kaine Hanson (16.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg), Clarence Binstock
(10.5 ppg, 6.7 apg) and Nick Wolf (15.5 ppg), plus several players who contributed off the bench.
Mott-Regent, 17-4 last season, also returns three starters, including 6-6 senior Nate Fries (19.2 ppg, 13.3 rpg) and 6-4 senior Chad Mosbrucker
(18.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.6 apg), both of whom are near the 1,000-point mark in career scoring. McCahen Schweitzer (7 ppg, 4.1 apg) is back in the starting lineup, but 6-5 Tanner Vesladahl (3.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg), a starter last season, will be sidelined for a time because of a football injury.
Taylor Zentner (8.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) was the top player off the bench last season. Jacob Greff, Jonah Honeyman and Logan Haberstroh also contributed quality minutes. Greff is recovering from a football injury.
Heart River brings back four starters from a team that made it all the way to the region finals - Jordan Strecker (14 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Dylan Northrup (10 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 32 3-pointers), Jarek Haverluk (7 ppg,
3 apg, 29 3's), and Seth Ewoniuk (6.2 ppg, 54 steals and 102 assists).
Heart River also has several athletes who played well in the junior varsity ranks last season, including Isiah Marschner, who averaged 13 points and
7 rebounds per game.
The Beach Buccaneers return 6-foot-8 senior Landon Lechler, who earned second-team all-state honors after averaging
24 points and 12 rebounds per game.
However, Jake Hardy, who averaged 13 points last season, is lost for the season because of a knee injury suffered during football.
Lloyd Weinreis (7 ppg and 4 rpg) and Boston Zachmann (8 ppg and
5 rpg) are among the top returning lettermen.
Hettinger and Scranton co-oped this year, and the Night Hawks look to be a strong contender for the district crown. Ben Laufer averaged 21.8 points per game for Hettinger last season. Stephen Kristy (12.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg) and Justis Caldwell (11.8,
7.8 rpg) also started for Hettinger in 2010-11. Dalton Mellmer (3.5 ppg,
3.5 rpg), Dalton Rietz
(3.1 ppg) and Dylan Teske saw extensive varsity time.
Bowman County is rebuilding this season. Juniors Mike Palczewski (6.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and Colter Braaten (5.8 ppg) are the only players with extensive varsity experience. Palczewski netted
26 points in the Bulldogs' 62-43 season-opening win over Killdeer on Dec. 1.