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Tom Mix, Published March 05 2013

Milnor players finally catch dream of a state boys basketball berth

Milnor, N.D. - The saying “running down a dream” has been made popular this week in the town of Milnor.

Posters with those words decorated telephone poles and store fronts throughout Main Street in the town of 647.

The spike in fanfare has been brought on by the Milnor boys basketball team that is headed to the North Dakota Class B state tournament, which starts Thursday.

The Bison (19-6) play Bismarck Shiloh Christian at 2:45 p.m. in the first round at the Minot State Dome. Thursday will mark the first time in nine years that a Milnor boys team has played in a state tournament game.

“This is the ultimate goal that we had this year, making it to state,” said senior Landon Mund, who averages 11.6 points per game for the Bison. “Now we can even exceed our goal and see what we can do there. This is what we have all been dreaming of since grade school.”

Many of the other players on Milnor’s roster, including Landon’s brother, Wyatt, and junior Briton Bussman, shared that same dream of one day making it to state. Now that they have done that, the next step is making a run for the ultimate prize: A state championship, which Milnor has never won.

“I think the guys see this as an opportunity more than anything,” Milnor head coach Benjamin Nelson said. “They worked hard for it, and they know that they deserve to be there.”

“It is still a little bit surreal, but we are trying to stay as focused as we can.”

The nine-year drought of not making it to state has made Milnor’s recent run of success a big reason to celebrate.

The Mund brothers, Bussman and the rest of the Milnor squad have been the talk of the town, but Bussman said he and his teammates know the purpose of their trip to Minot.

“We just want to get back to playing basketball,” said Bussman, who averages a team-best 24.7 points per game. “We want to make some noise in that state tournament.”

Milnor did not start the season as though it was destined for state. The Bison lost four of their first six games, but recovered and eventually stamped their tickets to Minot with a big run in the Region 1 tournament.

“At the beginning of the season, we didn’t have a lot of experience, but the more and more we played, the better we got,” said junior forward Wyatt Mund, who averages 14.4 points a game.

Wyatt and Landon are part of the Mund family basketball tradition in Milnor. They are second cousins to former North Dakota State women’s basketball standout Lynette Mund.

Landon is Milnor’s lone senior and said going to state to cap off his Bison hoops career is special considering he missed most of his junior season due to injury.

“That junior year was tough,” Landon Mund said. “I broke my foot twice, and I made it back for the Region 1 tournament, but I wasn’t 100 percent then. But now it is so much fun playing with these guys.”

Wyatt Mund is five points shy of 1,000 career points and will join Bussman as recent Bison players to reach that milestone.

“I figured if not at a home game, state would be a great place to get it,” Wyatt said of scoring his 1,000th point. “That will be a lot of fun.”

Running down a state title might be fun too.

“The dream has been there,” Nelson said. “I think now we have a whole new opportunity in front of us that we have to take advantage of.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562