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Bismarck’s Dexter Werner will be playing college basketball at North Dakota State.

Tribune file photo

Some people collect stamps. Others collect rare coins. Dexter Werner collects state championships.

As the 6-foot-5½ Werner works his way through his senior year he's contributed to six Bismarck High state titles -three in track, two in football and one in basketball.

A seventh was oh, so close. The Demons, 19-6 last season, lost 57-51 to Century in the state Class A championship game. BHS and Century split four decisions down the middle last season.

"That was a big deal. It stings a lot," Werner said. "It was a close game. It's a game you don't forget. ... We could have played 10 times, and we both would have won five."

Werner said redeeming that loss will be a motivating force for him in his final season of high school basketball.

"We're striving to get back to that (championship) game," he said.

That's more than just loose talk. With three starters returning, the Demons are ranked among the top teams in the state as the season nears.

"It's realistic to have it as a goal," Werner said. "It's a good goal for us to have. To get back to that spot we've got to improve one game at a time and work to get back to that point."

Werner, who has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at North Dakota State, has already forged an illustrious career at Bismarck. He's a two-time basketball all-stater - second team as a sophomore, first team as a junior - and was last year's Gatorade state basketball player of the year.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds last season, up from 11.2 points and 10.4 rebounds as a sophomore. He put up averages of 6.9 points and 7.6 rebounds after becoming a starter in January of his freshman year.

As Werner's final season of high school basketball begins, Mandan coach Jason Horner is eager to hurry things along.

"I'm glad I don't have to see him after this year. He's kicked our tails for four years and he's caused our coaching staff a lot of headaches," Horner said.

In football Werner earned first team all-state honors as a tight end and was all-region both as a tight end and punter. He caught 21 passes for 397 yards and six touchdowns, making him the No. 5 receiver in the West Region. Twenty of those catches came in Bismarck's final seven games.

He's a three-time state placer in track as a discus and javelin thrower. His best finish is a third in the discus as a junior.

An impressive resume but, to Werner, incomplete.

"It would feel great to leave Bismarck High my senior year with state championships in football, basketball and track," he said. "... You've got to play your heart out and hope for the best."

The football title got the year off to a good start, but Werner said it didn't wipe away the taste of last year's near miss in basketball.

"Football means a lot to me, but basketball means just as much, if not more. Basketball is the sport I'm going to continue to play," he said.

Since Werner joined the BHS basketball team as a freshman, Demon athletic teams have piled up 22 state championships.

Werner believes that level of success tends to make Bismarck an instant target, regardless of the sport.

"Schools automatically want to beat you," he said. "... It definitely makes the games more exciting when more people come to the gym to cheer against you and the other team plays harder. It makes for better games."

"I'd rather play in a gym full of people and have a tough game than get a blowout in an empty gym," he added.

With so many good athletes going through BHS, Werner said he understands the challenge to maintain the Demon tradition.

"Just to be part of this tradition is a great honor," he said. "... Going into the start of the season there's more pressure on Bismarck High than any other school, and it puts a lot of pressure on the players and coaches."

"The fact that we've stepped up to the challenge says something about the school," Werner added.