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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


My how things have changed...

Posted 1/09/18 (Tue)

I was on the North Dakota High School Activities website the other day and noticed there are now three “super” regions in Class B basketball. They may have been there last year, I just hadn’t noticed until now.

But what really stuck out like a sore thumb, is how many teams no longer exist. We have a lot of co-ops these days, but 50 years ago, the entire layout of boys basketball in North Dakota was different.

If you happen to be on the Internet, take a look at the NDHSAA website. When the page comes up, look for athletics, then basketball, then teams.

If you look at Super Region 2, a former Class A team in Grafton is in there, so is Park River, Cavalier and Hillsboro.

What’s really changed is Region 3 which has been turned upside down, but still has some good basketball teams.

Edgeley and Kulm had their own teams not so long ago and were quite the rivals, but now they are together and Montpelier is added after the second hyphen.

Oakes and LaMoure never played teams as far north as Midkota and Carrington, unless of course, it was in the state tournament. They do now.

Ironically, Ellendale and Oakes aren’t co-oping with anybody, but Midkota, which used to be called, and get this, Glenfield-Sutton-McHenry-Grace City-Binford, never played teams as far south as Oakes or Ellendale.

District 6, as it is called now, used to be much different. Some of the teams have actually come up with some catchy names like the South Border Mustangs, but this part of North Dakota had many more teams than now.

Growing up in Hazelton, which is in Emmons County, we had seven high school basketball teams 50 years ago. Now, it’s down to two.

Hazelton, Braddock, Linton, Linton St. Anthony, Strasburg Public, Emmons Central and Hague were all vying for a district title. These days, Hazelton and Braddock have been absorbed by Linton. There was never a “Moffit” in the name when I was a kid, although Moffit kids were going to school in Hazelton. St. Anthony and Emmons Central no longer exist and when the Hague Patriots were no longer part of the equation, they merged with Zeeland and Strasburg.

But Now, Strasburg and Zeeland are a co-op team. Wishek and Ashley, once big rivals, are now South Border. Ashley and Hazelton once had a rivalry, but that’s been gone for many years.

Napoleon, which remains in the district, has absorbed Gackle and Streeter, both that had their own schools and teams.

If you look at the northwestern part of the state, things have changed there too and generally follow the same trend as all the other schools in the state, except that new teams have been added.

More specifically, Ward County has added two new teams in Nedrose and South Prairie and is probably the only county other than Cass, that could support it’s own basketball league.

Minot Ryan, Our Redeemer’s, Surrey, Nedrose, Des Lacs/Burlington, Berthold and South Prairie are all inside Ward County’s boundaries. North Shore is partly in Ward County but games are played in Plaza, in Mountrail County. Sawyer, also in Ward County, had a team until recently.

Epping, the team that took second place in the 1977 state tournament, no longer exists. I assume those students got absorbed into Ray and Williston schools.

When you look at Class A, things have changed there too, but in the opposite direction. There are now six high schools between Fargo and West Fargo, and Jamestown, which has traditionally been an eastern team, got kicked out to the western curb.

But, you can go to Bismarck and Mandan and find five schools there in the Class A ranks. Add Shiloh Christian and you have six. Add Fargo Oak Grove and there are seven in the Fargo metro.

I sometimes feel sorry for Devils Lake, Valley City and Wahpeton, as they are small Class A schools having to play giants like Fargo South and Grand Forks Red River.

Will these districts change again? Or should I say when will these districts change again?

It wasn’t long after Bismarck Century opened in 1976 there was talk of another high school. It took almost 40 years, but Bismarck Legacy finally became a reality.

The bigger question is how long can some of these smaller teams hang on?

If you look at teams like Dunseith, Medina, Alexander and Divide County in Crosby, the numbers keep slipping and maybe it’s just a matter of time.