Lions heading back to Region 4 Tournament
Minnewaukan-Leeds boys basketball team had just one victory in its first eight games, but there were no thoughts about pushing the panic button.
The Lions eventually turned their fortunes around, winning nine of their remaining 11 regular season games, and recently earned a berth in this week’s Region 4 Tournament by way of a 2-1 record at the District 8 Tournament.
“Wins weren’t coming (early), but we were in every game,” said Lions’ first-year coach Mark Swanson. “We would play well for two and a half, three quarters, but we would have one bad stretch that would hurt us.”
The Lions’ turnaround, oddly enough, came in one of those early losses.
“We played New Rockford-Sheyenne tough, trailing by just two points heading into the fourth quarter, despite having Steve Hausmann and Dustin Paulson in foul trouble,” Swanson said. “Although we lost that game, I think it gave us the confidence that we could compete against the quality teams from our region.”
Those teams will meet again, this time with much more at stake. M-Leeds and New Rockford-Sheyenne of District 7 will face off in the first round of the region tournament this Monday, March 9 at 4:30 p.m. in Devils Lake.
In the last half of the season M-L has tightened up its defense and has developed a diverse offense that can score on transition as well as be effective in the half-court set. A trio of players has led the team in scoring, including Hausmann, who is averaging about 16 points per game. Dustin Paulson and Matt Swanson have been hovering around double digits as well. However, the squad is developing scoring depth from two or three other players.
Staying out of foul trouble, winning the battle of the boards and limiting turnovers will be vital to the Lions’ chances of advancing to the semifinals for the first time in two years.
This is the fifth straight season M-L has reached the tournament. “It doesn’t matter who you face at this point of the season; it’s going to be a good team,” Swanson said. “We’re looking forward to the game, and we know we have to play a strong game on both ends of the floor.”
Other first round games
No. 1 North Star of District 8 will face No. 4 Warwick of District 7 in the tournament opener at 3 p.m.; No. 2 St. John of District 8 will face No. 3 Four Winds of District 7 at 6 p.m.; and No. 1 Carrington of District 7 will meet No. 4 Munich-Starkweather of District 8 in the final game at 7:30 p.m. The semifinals will be played on Tuesday, March 10 with the third place and championship game set for Thursday, March 12.
Notes: Four Winds is the three-time defending region champion…The last time a District 8 team won the region was 2001 – Cando (North Star)…Neither No. 1 seed last season (New Rockford or Munich-Stark.) reached the championship.