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Published March 03 2010

Central Cass girls basketball team turns back the clock en route to state tournament

The last time the Central Cass girls basketball team advanced to a state tournament, President Richard Nixon was on his way out in a scandal, and disco was on its way up.

So it’s perfectly fitting that this year’s Squirrels went a little retro to find their way back.

Central Cass – making its first appearance since 1974 – will take on Kenmare at 1 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the North Dakota Class B state girls basketball tournament at the Minot State Dome.

“We just have to keep working hard,” said junior forward Taylor Kraft, who leads the Squirrels with 16.6 points a game. “… We can do it, we can keep going. That is our hope. We’ll do it.”

Central Cass (23-2) used an old-school, grind-it-out defensive approach to finally break through to the state tourney this season.

The Squirrels locked opponents down with swarming pressure and used their ‘stop-then-score’ mentality to get through the regular season with just one loss.

Central Cass was defeated by Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page in the District 2 tournament, but went on to qualify for state with a win against rival Hankinson. The Pirates defeated the Squirrels in the two previous Region 1 title games.

“We know we don’t have the best ball-handlers,” said coach Barb Kraft, whose team had lost four previous region title games. “But we work together and we can get the press taken care of.”

The Squirrels have remained calm under pressure all season. But they were icy cold calm against Hankinson.

Central Cass shot 42 percent from the floor against the Pirates, despite a barrage of hand-waving, speedy players coming at it in waves throughout the night.

It’s that resolve that players hope propels the Squirrels to lengthy run at state.

“We just need to keep working hard, we need to keep playing as a team, we need to work together,” senior Madison Gegelman said. “We put trust into each other and our coaches. We focus on our team and we try not to think about the pressures (opponents) put on us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562