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Steve Thomas / Bismarck Tribune, Published March 27 2013

Guards highlight Class A boys all-state team

BISMARCK – Guards, guards, everywhere guards. Frontcourt players took a back seat when this season’s North Dakota Class A all-state boys basketball team was selected.

As chosen by the Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, the first team consists of three pure guards and three rovers.

A.J. Jacobson of state champion Fargo Shanley is the focal point of the team. He won a triple crown of sorts by winning a state championship, the Class A senior athlete award and Mr. Basketball honors.

Jacobson’s first-team all-state teammates are Mac Kroeplin of Grand Forks Red River, Erron Collins of Mandan, Nate Mertens of Devils Lake, Tanner Kretchman of Fargo Davies and Ben Weisbeck of St. Mary’s.

Jacobson broke the unofficial Class A career scoring record with 2,002 points. He averaged 26.4 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists as a senior and scored 27 points in the Deacons’ 73-54 win over Bismarck in the state title game.

Shanley coach Shane Alderman said the 6-foot-6 Jacobson blended talent, skill and leadership into a well-balanced package. So much so that he could play differing games on successive nights to fit varying opponents – a big reason he will be playing at North Dakota State next season.

“He’s just a super defender, he handles the ball well and passes the ball well. ... He’s just so well-rounded he can do anything you need him to do,” Alderman said. “He was well-respected by his teammates, and in turn he respected them and knew they had an equal part in achieving the goals of this team.”

Kroeplin, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 19.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Red River. He sank 52 3-pointers with 45.6 percent efficiency.

“The thing about Mac is he did a little bit of everything for us. He was a guard, a post and even a point guard at times,” Red River coach Jason Gregory said. “He’s such a competitor. We always got his best effort – whatever it took for the team to be successful.”

Collins, a 5-11 senior point guard, averaged 18.7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.6 steals while leading the team in 3-pointers. He led Mandan to its fifth straight trip to the state tournament.

“He gave us leadership and maturity on the floor,” Mandan coach Jason Horner said of Collins, who has committed to South Dakota School of Mines. “And he wasn’t scared to lead and challenge his teammates, which is really hard for a high school player to do. That is a big reason we improved throughout the year.”

Mertens, a 6-2 senior guard, led all Class A shooters with a 26.9 scoring average. He also averaged 7.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.5 steals for the Firebirds.

A four-year varsity player and a three-year starter, Mertens broke the school’s career scoring record (1,544 points), previously held by his cousin Travis Mertens.

“On both sides of the ball he was our go-to guy,” said Devils Lake coach Derek Gathman. “He always guarded the best player. He was our best defensive player and best offensive player, no doubt about it. His decision making and crashing the boards are the two big things I saw.”

Kretchman, a 5-11 junior guard, averaged 24.2 points, 4.5 assists and drained 86 3-pointers, making 47.3 percent of them.

“He’s one of the better pure shooters I’ve seen in North Dakota for a long time,” said Davies coach Bart Manson. “He’s able to get his shot off very quickly and very accurately. Teams tried to lock him up so once he got rid of the ball he wouldn’t get it back.”

Weisbeck, a 6-1 junior guard, displayed 51.4 percent field goal accuracy while averaging 18 points. He averaged 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

“I think he rounded out his game a little bit on both ends of the floor,” said St. Mary’s coach Joe Mueller said. “He was a better rebounder and defender this year. We wanted him to make his teammates better.”

The second team:

E Patrick Strom, a 6-2 junior from Fargo Shanley, averaged 19.7 points and connected for 90 3-pointers, making nearly 41 percent of them.

E Tyler Rudolph, 6-6 junior from Bismarck Century, averaged 13.3 points, shot 53.4 percent from the field, averaged 8.8 rebounds and blocked 30 shots.

E Darius Sparks, 6-1 junior from Bismarck St. Mary’s, made 51 3-pointers with 42.1 accuracy. He averaged 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

E Jordan Krieg, 6-5 senior from Dickinson, averaged 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.

E Chase Carpenter, 6-4 senior from Valley City, averaged 22.7 points and 10.8 rebounds.