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Tom Mix, Published December 15 2013

Milnor boys have sights set on repeat

Milnor, N.D. - The banner commemorating the 2012-13 North Dakota Class B boys basketball state championship won by Milnor has yet to be unveiled.

Milnor’s head coach Ben Nelson said a formal recognition ceremony is still in the works, but the Bison really haven’t given that matter much thought.

Defending the state championship has been the paramount concern for Milnor, which has opened the season 5-0 and ranked No. 1 in the first two Class B polls.

“We have some lofty goals for ourselves based on how we finished last year,” Nelson said. “There are some big expectations we’ve made for ourselves, some from our fans, and others from people across the state.”

So far, the Bison have met those expectations.

Milnor defeated No. 6-ranked LaMoure-Litchville-Marion 63-45 on Saturday in the championship of the Barnes County Tournament.

The Bison only lost one player from their championship squad and returned four of their five starters, including all-state second team senior point guard Briton Bussman, who is averaging 23.8 points per game.

“We have a lot of experience coming back,” said Bussman, who poured in a new personal-best 33 points against Barnes County North last Tuesday. “The big thing on our team is we have a lot of leadership. It has got us going right away.”

Joining Bussman as returning starters are seniors Wyatt Mund (15.2 ppg, 7 rebounds per game), Andrew Martinson (5.8 ppg), and Colin Yagow.

Yagow has been easing his way back into basketball from an injury, making Milnor’s rotation in the early going somewhat of a work in progress.

“We are still trying to find out what our rotation is going to be early on in the season,” Nelson said. “We have some spots to fill. So far it has gone well. It’s still early and there this a lot to work on.”

Several of the players on the Bison roster were members of the Milnor-North Sargent football team that made an appearance at the Dakota Bowl last month.

The run in the football playoffs didn’t leave much of a break before the first basketball practice.

“It was a hard transition,” said Bussman, who was the quarterback for the Bulldogs. “We were pretty sore the first couple of weeks, but we were pretty excited to get started.”

Juniors Dalton Yagow and Josh Weber also have been in the rotation for Milnor as well as a pair of sophomores with height.

Masen Olsen (6-foot-4) and Quincey Marlatt (6-foot) have seen significant varsity minutes. Olsen is averaging 4.5 rpg and Marlatt is averaging 5.2 ppg.

“We have seen some flashes of good play from a lot of the players,” Nelson said. “We are just looking for consistency.”

The last team to repeat as Class B champions was May-Port-CG in 2002 and 2003.

“We had the luxury, if you want to call it that, of watching what happened to Beulah and North Star last year,” Nelson said. “Those two were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 all year and didn’t make it to the state tournament. We realize that it is a long season. For us, it is just a matter of assessing where we are at and trying to get better every time we go out on the floor whether that is for practice or for a game.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562