Going to the state Class B boys’ basketball tournament is a memorable experience for small towns lucky enough to make the trip.
Even those destined for their 16th tournament, like the Beulah Miners, were excited about the prospect of coming to the Bismarck Event Center this weekend.
Then it all came crashing down with the announcement by the North Dakota High School Activities Association that all activities -- including the state Class B tournament -- were suspended indefinitely in wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The announcement came midway through the state Class A tournament and was shared with the Miners last Friday, a day after they won their third straight region championship.
“I haven’t talked to a lot of people, but we met with our team on Friday after school,” Beulah coach Jeremy Brandt said. “The kids obviously are pretty bummed. It was a pretty emotional meeting. We just told them everything was up in the air.”
It was the same message all around the state, where teams went from euphoria to despair in a matter of hours.
Richland and Shiloh Christian were preparing with Beulah for return trips. Hillsboro-Central Valley last went in 2018; Four Winds-Minnewaukan in 2017; Rugby in 2015; New Town in 2014; and Edgeley-Kulm-Montpelier way back in 1990.
The Miners, who won the title in 2012 and lost the championship game by a point in 1996, had won 19 straight games after a 2-3 start. Two of those losses were to state qualifiers Rugby and Four Winds-Minnewaukan. Their turnaround coincided with the return to form of sophomore guard Trey Brandt, who was hurt during football season.
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“By the middle of January he was 100 percent,” Jeremy said. “Once he got healthy, we started winning games.”
The Miners were 21-3 behind Brandt and a pair of seniors -- 6-6 center Jonah Larson and 6-1 forward Korey Rueb.
Brandt leads the Miners in scoring at 20.7 points per game, in addition to six rebounds and 3.8 assists. Larson adds 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. Both were selected all-Region 7.
Larson has surpassed 1,000 career points and been to two previous state tournaments.
Trey Brandt, already a veteran of two state tournaments, has scored 928 points through his sophomore season.
Jeremy Brandt said their getting to play in another state tournament really doesn’t mean any more or less than it would for a kid from Edgeley.
“That thought crossed my mind,” Jeremy Brandt said. “I can’t sit here and say to my kids it should mean less to you because you’ve been there before. I don’t think for our kids, whether they went last year or whenever, it’s still meaningful for them.
“For all parties involved … it’s just hard to wrap your head around it that we’re in this situation, but we’re at the mercy of bigger things.”
The NDHSAA met Monday and the decision to suspend the season indefinitely was affirmed, meaning unless something changes down the road, there will not be a Class B champion crowned for the first time since 1932.
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