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Tom Mix, Published March 13 2013

Eagles hope to make most of program's first state berth

Fargo - This season’s Fargo Davies boys basketball team will forever be known as trailblazers, being the first in program history to qualify for a state tournament.

The Eagles’ varsity program – in its third year of existence – enters the North Dakota Class A state tournament as the new kids on the block.

Everything will be brand new for the Eagles when they step on the court to play Mandan – making its 38th appearance at state – at 7:45 p.m. today in the quarterfinals at the Bismarck Civic Center.

Though the experience of state will be a first for every player on Davies’ roster, the Eagles have been visualizing the trip for weeks.

“We have been trying to get the kids to understand what it is like playing in those big games,” Davies head coach Bart Manson said. “The last three weeks, we have been talking about Bismarck and talking about getting there. It’s something we definitely had on the radar and was something we wanted to do this season.”

Since Feb. 14, Davies (16-6) has won seven of its last eight games, including a 93-88 victory over No. 3-ranked Fargo Shanley in the semifinals of the East Region tournament, which clinched the Eagles state berth.

Junior guard Andrew Kozlowski has been at Davies since Day 1. Kozlowski, who averages 16 points per game and 6 rebounds per game, started as a freshman and would like to help blaze the trail he and his teammates have started a little further this weekend.

“It is a great feeling and it is a lot of fun,” Kozlowski said. “We are happy with what we have done, but we are not quite celebrating yet. We obviously have more goals for ourselves now that we have made it there and we will see how it goes.”

Two new players joined the fold for Davies this season with 6-foot-6 senior forward David Olson transferring from Grand Forks Central and junior guard Tanner Kretchman being eligible for varsity minutes after transferring from Kindred as a sophomore.

The addition of Olson, an all-Eastern Dakota Conference player as a junior, and Kretchman – a longtime teammate of Kozlowski’s in youth basketball – to the mix helped make the Eagles a team fully equipped to contend with the state’s best teams.

“It’s been pretty cool coming to Davies and this being my first state appearance,” said Olson, who averages 16.6 points per game and a team-best 8.4 rebounds per game. “We have a great team and we have a chance to win it too. I’m excited. It is going to be fun.”

Kretchman has emerged as Davies’ leading scorer, averaging 25.2 points per game as well as dishing out 4.5 assists per game. Like every one of his teammates and coaches, Kretchman is soaking in the Eagles’ drive to state.

“It is very exciting,” Kretchman said. “Anytime it is the first year going to state as a program, it is special, and to be going to state individually with all these guys is special too.”

The Eagles roster might have zero state experience, but the coaching staff has plenty.

Manson – named Mr. Basketball in 1991 – played in three state tournaments from 1989-1991 with Minot, including a state title team in 1990.

Manson’s father, Gene Manson, is an assistant coach for the Eagles and was the head coach at Minot from 1981 to 2008. During that stretch, Gene Manson guided the Magicians to 21 state tournament appearances and four state titles.

Davies assistants Jake Hook – who played at Fargo Shanley – and Jayce Hardy – who played at Fargo South – all have experience playing at the state tournament.

“These kids have never had that feeling of what it is like playing in a state tournament game,” Bart Manson said. “To have a chance to play in that tournament in front of those big crowds is exciting. Hopefully the kids will remember how it feels and they will want to get back.”

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