The Bowman County Bulldogs have made a statement early on.
Despite a new, more youthful look on the court, the Bulldogs have reeled off four consecutive victories to open the season.
Bowman County is coming off a 17-win season and a third-place finish in Region 7. But the Bulldogs lost three seniors off that squad, including Region 7 senior athlete of the year Caleb Duffield, a Class B second-team all-state selection. And they’ll likely be without the services of senior Gavin Scott, who averaged 15.5 points and 5 rebounds per game last year and was one of their best returning long-range shooters. Scott is likely out for the season due to injury.
Still, the Bulldogs head into tonight's home game against Killdeer 4-0 and ranked No. 9 in the latest Class B poll.
“We’re a young team, we’re still finding ourselves,” said Bulldogs coach Nick Walker. “We’re getting good guard play from Bohden Duffield and Bishop Duffield.
“We’re playing seven sophomores pretty regularly. We’re hoping this team has continued growth throughout the season. They may be ahead of schedule on the defensive end.”
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Bowman County opened the season with a 71-51 win over Baker (Mont.) and defeated Hettinger-Scranton 77-41 in the opening round of the Roughrider tournament. After the pair of high-scoring wins, the Bulldogs edged Beach 57-51 in the semifinals and held Dickinson Trinity to 42 points in a 55-42 title-game triumph.
Either pace of play is fine with the Bulldogs.
“I’m sure if you asked our kids they’d say they prefer to get up and down the floor and play in the 70s and 80s,” Walker said. “But we have a lot of good teams in our region and it shows that we’re able to compete on the defensive end and that’s a good thing for a young team.”
Bohden Duffield is averaging 26.5 points per game so far, with Bishop Duffield – both sophomores – averaging 17.
Senior Carson Massey is adding around 7 points and 6 rebounds per game while playing solid defense. Junior Sam Andrews is averaging around six points and sophomore Aidan Thompson is chipping in with 9 points per game and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.
The unbeaten record and state ranking is a positive but Walker knows the Region 7 field is full of contenders.
“It means something to our boys and the community to get that notoriety,” Walker said. “If you want to go somewhere in this region, you’ve got to go through Trinity and Beulah. There are a lot of other tough teams like Hazen, Glen Ullin and Beach … it’s going to be a gantlet once January and February roll around.”
Despite getting off to a strong start, there is work to be done.
“If we want to have any chance when it rolls around to March, we’ve got to rebound better on the defensive end,” Walker said. “We’re a bit undersized. Our tallest kid is 6-1, we have one off the bench who’s 6-4. We’re undersized compared to other teams in the region.
“We have to protect the rim. We’ve done a good job of protecting the ball but if we could cut down on turnovers a little bit more that would go a long way toward helping us.”
The Bulldogs have not played since Dec. 18, but a busy stretch looms with four games in the next 10 days. After tonight's tilt against Killdeer, they host Hazen on Saturday and Lemmon (S.D.) on Jan. 11 and go to New England on Jan. 13.
“Once January and February hit, it seems like all we do is play games,” Walker said.