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Stiff early schedule paying dividends for Brandt-led Beulah Miners basketball team
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Stiff early schedule paying dividends for Brandt-led Beulah Miners basketball team

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Looking for a scouting report of the top teams in Class B boys basketball this season?

Beulah, and head coach Jeremy Brandt, would be a good place to start.

The Miners, who have thrust themselves squarely into the mix of the best in ‘B’, have played the No. 1 (Rugby), No. 2 (Four Winds-Minnewaukan) and No. 3 (St. John) teams in the latest Class B poll. Beulah, which has climbed to No. 6 in the latest rankings, has won 12 straight games heading into Friday night’s road game at Mott-Regent.

None of those teams play in Beulah’s district or region, meaning a commitment is needed from the school.

“We’re fortunate our administration allows us to go play good teams,” Brandt said. “It toughens our kids up and puts them in tournament-type situations that we hope will pay off for us at the end of the season.”

It’s a formula that has fit the Miners very well through the years. Beulah, which owns a 14-3 record, has qualified for each of the last two state tournaments.

“Playing those really good teams, especially on the road or at a neutral site, is really beneficial. You just can't mimic what you see in those games in practice. You just can’t,” Brandt said. “We took some lumps in those games, but we learned a lot and it’s made us better. We’re certainly better now than we were back then.”

The Miners lost all three of those games, but have since defeated the likes of 13-4 Shiloh Christian, in Bismarck, and are coming off a key Region 7 win over Dickinson Trinity (15-3) on Feb. 6, 56-53.

The Miners have come on quickly with largely a new team, with the exception of a couple of standout players. Beulah went 20-6 and placed sixth at the state tournament last season and returned only two players with any varsity experience.

Those two -- sophomore guard Trey Brandt and senior post Jonah Larson -- have formed one of the top inside-outside combinations in the state.

Trey Brandt, Jeremy’s son, is a true gym rat. He puts up 1,000 to 1,500 shots a week outside of practice. It’s paying off. Just a 10th-grader, Trey is averaging 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

“Trey’s had a tremendous season for us. Our team feeds off him,” Jeremy said of his son, who also plays football and baseball at Beulah. “His goal has always been to play college basketball someday. He’s committed. He puts the time in.”

Father and son try not to take basketball to the dinner table. Jeremy said they have help in that regard.

“My wife isn’t that big of a basketball fan, actually,” he said. “She’s a pretty good buffer.

“There are challenges when you’re coaching your son or your daughter. We don’t always see eye to eye and that’s OK. But we both have the same goal in mind and that’s doing what’s best for the team.”

While Brandt has excelled at the point guard spot for Beulah, Larson has been a handful in the paint. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game. Heading into Friday’s game at Mott, Larson is just 14 points shy of 1,000. He also has more than 600 career rebounds. The Miners’ big man played his freshman and sophomore season for the Garrison Troopers.

“Jonah is very difficult to deal with in the post. If teams don’t double team him, he’s probably going to score, and when they do double him, that opens things up for everybody else,” Jeremy Brandt said. “He’s played very well for us.”

The Miners’ starting five is very athletic.

Juniors Nathan Battest and Dawson Zuroff, along with sophomore Trapper Skalsky round out the lineup. Battest accounted for eight touchdowns in the postseason alone during the Miners’ run to the Class AA football state championship game.

Elijah Barbot, a junior guard, and senior forward Korey Rueb provide key minutes off the bench.

“Those kids hadn’t played varsity basketball before this season and there is a learning curve with that,” Jeremy Brandt said. “They’ve made a lot of progress with the more experience they’ve gotten. As a team, we’ve defended really well.”

The Miners have four games left, the final three at home before the Region 7 Tournament at Dickinson Trinity where a second showdown with the Titans likely looms for a trip to Bismarck and the state B boys tournament March 19-21.

“The main thing is, like all teams, we want to be playing our best at the regional tournament,” Jeremy Brandt said. “Hopefully we can take a few more steps here over the last few games of the regular season and make another run at it at the end.”

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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