Posted On: 11/19/18 11:00 AM

The Western Dakota Association produced the state championship team each of the last four seasons with Bismarck Century unseating Minot which had won the previous three state titles.

The league figures to be strong again this year as many of the top players in the state in the 2019 and 2020 classes play at schools in the WDA.

Here are some things to watch:

How good will Bismarck Century be after graduating so much talent?

Century graduated an outstanding senior class including All-State wing Josh Sipes and star big man Kade Amundson. The Patriots lose quality players every year though and consistently pump out more than 20 wins. So anybody expecting a dropoff will likely be disappointed. Century returns arguably the best point guard in the state in Treyton Mattern who averaged better than 13 points and four assists as a junior. Cade Feeney joins him in the backcourt after proving himself as a top-notch defender. Those two should stabilize things plus the Patriots have a number of seniors who’ve waited their turn including shooting guard Bryce Auck and swingman Mason Peterson. Throw junior guard Griffin Jensen and sophomore guard Ian Ely into the mix and the Patriots have the right combination of experience, depth and young talent.

What about Minot?

The Magicians didn’t make the state tournament let alone win it last year as they lost to Century and Mandan in the region tournament. Is Minot headed towards a down period or was last year’s 18-6 season just a blip? Bet on it being a blip. While Minot doesn’t appear to have head-and-shoulders better talent than everybody else, the Magicians certainly have the talent to rattle of 20-plus wins, win the WDA and make noise at state again. Jaxon Gunville averaged 10.4 points and buried 45 percent of his 3-point attempts. He’s due for an expanded role heading into his upperclass years. Alex Schimke averaged 10.4 points and led the team in assists. He’s an all-league caliber player. Add in junior big man Easton Larson and sophomore guard Brody Schwartz and Minot has a lot to be excited about.

Returning State Tournament Teams

Mandan took third in last year’s state tournament, winning two games by a combined 40 points but losing to Century in the state semifinal game. Gone are the Stecklers and about 35 points and 15 rebounds combined. The cupboard is far from bare though as Elijah Klein is one of the best players in the state and ready for an even bigger breakout after averaging 14 points and nine boards as a sophomore. Trey Wiest is one of the better point guards in the league and will probably increase his point production now while Jaxon Wiest and Kobe Poitra could be primed for sophomore-to-junior breakout campaigns.

Jamestown returns one of the best duos in the state in junior wing Boden Skunberg and senior forward Mason Walters. Those two combined to average 30 points and about 14 rebounds. The question for the Bluejays is if the supporting cast can provide enough support for them to improve. Skunberg is one of the best players in the state regardless of age and Walters is a steady, productive big. Jamestown won 12 games last year and should be even better this winter.

Bismarck St. Mary’s was the surprise state tournament entrant last year as the Saints won just six regular season games but pulled off two upset victories in the playoffs. The Saints graduated a big core though so there are a lot of question marks for that group. Ben Schmidt and Jaxon Wiseman should provide plenty of highlights in the backcourt.

Other Things to Know

Bismarck won 16 games last year and returns senior guard Joe Jahner who is one of the top players in the state. He’s one of the best in the state and creating his own shot and while his efficiency suffers because he has to take so many difficult shots, he’s got the ability to lead the league in scoring. Canyon Stonecipher, Will Madler and Matt Trolliey all have degrees of experience at the varsity level and should provide plenty of support. The Demons should contend for a top three or four finish in the WDA.

Turtle Mountain won just six games overall and three in league but Julien Parisien is one of the best scorers in the state. He averaged better than 23 points per game a year ago while leading the team in rebounding and assists. The Braves played a lot of young guys last year, so they could be better than expected this winter if those guys take the next logical step.

Bismarck Legacy won nine games last year but will run back nearly an entirely new roster as it lost a ton to graduation.

Tallon Klatt averaged about six points and five rebounds as a sophomore for Dickinson and had a great summer playing AAU with ECI. He could be in for a big year though the league is stuffed with top-notch big men.  

Williston struggled mightily but Jorn Everson is one of the best players in the state for the 2021 class. At 6-foot-7, Everson’s got a diverse offensive game and could be a guy to watch. Typically underclassmen don’t make a big impact in the WDA – Everson might be an exception.

Conference Predictions

Bismarck Century

Mandan

Minot

Bismarck

Jamestown

Bismarck St. Mary’s

Dickinson

Turtle Mountain

Bismarck Legacy

Williston

WDA All League

First Team

Treyton Mattern, Sr., Bismarck Century (POY)

Elijah Klein, Jr., Mandan

Joe Jahner, Sr., Bismarck

Boden Skunberg, Jr., Jamestown

Jaxon Gunville, Jr., Minot

Second Team

Mason Walters, Sr., Jamestown

Julien Parisien, Sr., Turtle Mountain

Trey Wiest, Sr., Mandan

Cade Feeney, Jr., Bismarck Century

Alex Schimke, Sr., Minot

Third Team

Tallon Klatt, Jr., Dickinson

Bryce Auck, Sr., Bismarck Century

Easton Larson, Jr., Minot

Mason Peterson, Sr., Bismarck Century

Ben Schmidt, Sr., Bismarck St. Mary’s