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Published December 01 2010

A new beginning: ND officials hope that earlier start to Class B boys basketball season helps with girls turnaround

What’s this? A North Dakota Class B boys basketball game in November?

No, Fargo Oak Grove and North Sargent didn’t get their dates mixed up Tuesday night.

This is the first year of a new format for Class B basketball in North Dakota that has the boys and girls trading places.

The boys now begin two weeks earlier to help take some strain off many girls basketball players who for years have had no break following volleyball. The girls take over the previous boys schedule, starting two weeks later than in previous seasons.

“It’s good to get going, but it’s still too early,” said Grovers coach Kyle Card, whose team defeated North Sargent 64-49 in both team’s season opener at Gorder Gymnasium. “It just seemed like it was time for boys basketball. But now we have to live with it. Everyone had to do it. But it’s very strange.”

The North Dakota High School Activities Association made the move after hearing from several school administrators that the overlap of volleyball and basketball was putting a strain on girls in both sports.

NDHSAA Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling said Tuesday that member schools indicated that the girls needed a break.

“I think most people understand that it has got to happen,” he said. “Some will never buy into it. But I believe a majority do.”

The change comes with a few issues.

The Class B boys basketball tournament will no longer be the final tournament of the winter. The Class B girls will now cap the season on March 15-17. The boys state tournament is scheduled for March 1-3.

The first round of district tournaments for boys also will be held at higher seeds instead of at a neutral site, taking away some of the tournament atmosphere, according to Hankinson boys coach Mike Gaukler.

And the swap means Bismarck and Fargo are no longer options to host the Class B state boys tourney due to scheduling conflicts. The event, which is the biggest draw of any North Dakota state tournament, will now shuffle between Minot and Grand Forks.

The new boys tournament date coincides with the Western Dakota Association tournaments at the Bismarck Civic Center, and with the Eastern Dakota Conference tournaments in Fargo.

The Fargodome is also occupied by the Red River Valley Sportsman’s Show during the boys tournament.

“That is definitely one of the biggest drawbacks of doing this,” Central Cass boys basketball coach Troy Roesler said. “Our tournament always seems to do well in Bismarck. But that’s not one of the choices anymore. … I’m definitely not upset about it. Sometimes change can be good, sometimes change can be bad.”

Roesler and Gaukler said they would rather start the season later. Both hope there is a way to move the tournament back to Bismarck in the future.

Gaukler said he is worried that the girls tournament’s new date could hurt the event’s attendance.

“I certainly hope it doesn’t distract from the final outcome,” said Gaukler, the Pirates coach for 12 seasons. “We know that the big show has been the boys Class B. Now, it will be done and over with, then the girls will come after. Will (fan) participation (wane) after the boys? I hope that doesn’t happen.”

Roesler said some boys teams are now dealing with injury issues due to the short turnaround after the football season. The Dakota Bowl was held Nov. 12-13.

“I’m glad they made a change so the girls seasons don’t overlap,” said Roesler, in his fourth year as the Squirrels coach. “Now, we have some football injuries. Maple Valley is battling the same thing. More time would have been nice.”

North Sargent coach Jeremiah Hinkemeyer can relate. Most of his players had little time to rest after advancing to the North Dakota Class 1A championship football game this season.

However, Hinkemeyer said his team will not use any excuses.

“If you sit back and look at it you say, ‘I can’t believe we’re playing already,’” Hinkemeyer said. “It’s not even December yet and we’re already playing. … I definitely don’t like it. But it’s what we’re presented with. We’re just trying to move forward.”

North Sargent 13 24 33 49

Oak Grove 15 33 42 64

NORTH SARGENT: J. Greenmyer 1 0-0 3, Hansana 9 4-4 23, Enderson 1 0-0 3, A. Greenmyer 3 4-4 10, Kempel 0 0-0 0, Teske 2 2-3 6, Colemer 2 0-0 6. Totals: 18 10-11 49.

OAK GROVE: .Akason 3 3-4 10, Teigen 0 3-4 0 3. Dangerfield 4 1-2 9, Larson 0 1-2 1, Holt 4 2-2 13, Lloyd 5 2-4 17, Richards 4 1-2 9, Rustvang 1 0-0 2, Widmer 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 13-20 64.

3-pointers: J. Greenmyer, Hansana, Enderson, Teske 2, Akason, Holt 3, Lloyd 5. Rebounds: NS 27 (Enderson, A. Greenmyer 7), OG 22 (Larson 5). Total fouls: NS 21, OG 15. Fouled out: A. Greenmyer, Colemer.

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

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com