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Dave Selvig / Forum News Service, Published March 06 2013

Jamestown College men riding Hoge to nationals

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – The mythical “zone” that athletes get in occasionally is difficult to describe, but when someone is in it, it’s pretty obvious.

Mark Hoge knows what it feels like. The Jamestown College junior from Ironton, Minn., was truly in the zone when he sank 11 of 13 3-point attempts in the Jimmies’ loss to Dakota State in the A.I.I. championship game Feb. 24.

Hoge has been of All-America quality all season for the national-tournament bound Jimmies, but that day was different.

“It’s hard to explain, but there is definitely something to being in the zone,” Hoge said of his 36-point performance. “I felt just totally relaxed. … Like the game slowed down. It’s not something that happens often.”

Opposing coaches might argue against that, however.

Entering today’s first-round game in Branson, Mo., against No. 2 overall seed Cardinal Stritch, Hoge is averaging 18.4 points. He’s been particularly effective against top-notch clubs. In 10 games against teams in the national tournament, the versatile 6-foot-3 Hoge is averaging 23.3 points per game.

But he’s been more than a scorer. He’s also accounting for 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals.

Coach Justin Wieck said Hoge’s decision making has steadily improved throughout the season.

“Yeah the points he scores are big for us, but he’s been making all the right plays,” the first-year coach said. “He’s making plays and getting our other guys involved. His passing has been really, really good.”

Hoge fought through a shoulder injury early in the season and continues to wear a brace for it. It hasn’t slowed him down at all, though.

“It’s been a team effort for us. It’s not just one or two guys,” Hoge said. “We’ve had a lot of guys stepping up late in the season. That’s why we’re winning games.”

Fellow junior Davon Thomas has legit All-American credentials at 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

Freshman point guard Breshion Tucker has come on strong of late, boosting his averages to 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

Taylor Newton (7.6 ppg), Jared Sutherland (5.5 ppg, 4 rpg) and Beny Collins (4.4 rpg) also have increased their production of late. Sutherland suffered a sprained ankle in the second game of the A.I.I. tournament, but is expected to be OK for today.

The Jimmies (15-18) are heavy underdogs against Cardinal Stritch (30-3), but they’ve played and beaten good teams all season, and this is another challenge they’re ready for.

“Nobody thought we were going to get this far, but we’ve come a long ways,” Hoge said. “We’re a national-tournament team. One of the best 32 and we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

Dave Selvig is the sports editor for the Jamestown (N.D.) Sun