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Eric Peterson, Published March 04 2013

Valley City State earns at-large bid to NAIA D-II national tournament

FARGO – Getting to the national tournament wasn’t an overnight process for the Valley City State men’s basketball team.

“We have been kind of knocking on the door here,” said VCSU head coach Jeff Kaminsky, who is in his eighth season.

The Vikings (21-8) earned an at-large bid to the NAIA Division II tournament, which starts Wednesday in Point Lookout, Mo. VCSU plays Indiana Southeast at 5:45 p.m. in the first round of the 32-team tournament.

While the Vikings have not played in the national tournament since 1987, they have won at least 20 games in four of the past six seasons. This is the first time the Vikings have made the national tournament since it went to two Divisions in 1992.

“The one thing that’s kind of been missing for us has been making it to the national tournament,” Kaminsky said. “I do think we’ve had some other groups that have been very deserving of making the national tournament. It just hasn’t happened.”

A senior-dominated starting lineup has helped the Vikings end their national tournament drought. VCSU starts four seniors, including Sekani Milligen. A 6-foot-4 guard from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Milligen leads the team with 18.1 points per game.

Milligen is shooting 42 percent (100 of 237) from 3-point range.

“He is a tough matchup,” Kaminsky said of Milligen. “He is a big guard who is very skilled.”

Senior forward Dillan Ostrom (Finley, N.D.), senior guard John Raquel (Hawthorne, Calif.), senior forward Gus Kueber (Aneta, N.D.) and junior guard Aaron Duske (Buffalo, Minn.) round out the starting five for VCSU.

Senior guard Patrick Rogers (Burnsville, Minn.) is one of the key reserves on a team that has a 10-player rotation.

“I think there were expectations coming into the year that this year could be a special year,” Kaminsky said. “We had five seniors and a number of guys who have been through it before with us.”

The Vikings lost in the semifinals of the Association of Independent Institutions tournament, missing to a chance to earn and automatic bid. They had to sweat it out for a few days before they found out they earned one of the 12 at-large bids.

“We did get some new life there so we are excited about that,” Kaminsky said. “We want to take advantage of the opportunity.”

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Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com