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Upside Down Under

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


Bring back Class C basketball...

Posted 3/14/17 (Tue)

There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding the state Class B Basketball Tournament which starts Thursday in Minot. There always is. It’s arguably the biggest sporting event in North Dakota.

And as we look at the eight teams that made it through their district and regional tournaments, how many “small” schools do you see on the ticket?

Exactly, that’s why North Dakota high school basketball should have a third class. It would help small teams compete and win some championships.

This subject seems to come up every year about this time and it is often shot down for no other reason than we don’t need a third class.

Last year, the Class C voice was much louder but nothing changed. We still have David playing against Goliath on a regular basis.

What we really ought to do is take a serious look at a Class C because most kids in the smallest schools, even as teenagers, understand that even though they play basketball, they probably won’t be going to the post season because there is a much bigger school in the district or region that will beat them.

Seldom does the opposite happen. The best known “little school” that was able to compete on the “big guys” level was in 1977 when Epping and Hillsboro met in the state Class B championship.

Hillsboro ended up winning the game and the state title, 56-52, but that game, 40 years ago this week, energized basketball fans all across the state.

It’s the exception not the rule, however, and how often can you think of small towns competing against the larger ones?

Hazelton beat a much bigger Kenmare in the 1961 state tournament, Braddock beat Watford City in the 1988 girls state tournament and Mandaree claimed fifth in 2010, finishing ahead of much bigger schools Beulah and Shiloh Christian.

There’s a list of state Class B participants in the state tournament dating back to 1933, along with Class C dating back to 1948 and the Consolidated League back to 1922.

In a way, it’s like comparing apples and oranges or mangoes and almonds, but since 1964, we can relate to the lack of the smaller schools in the state Class B.

In 1948, Carpio beat Alexander in the state Class C title. Minot Model beat Rugby in the state Class B title.

Lisbon, Larimore, Linton, Rolla, Mayville and Elbowoods were the other Class B participants.

How do you think the Class C participants like Carpio, Alexander, Cathay, Zap, Aneta, Sheldon, Starkweather and Scranton would have competed against Class B?

Probably not very well. In fact, since 1964, there have been only 11 of the smallest schools in the state tournament. They included Epping, Fullerton, Halliday, Lehr, Jud, Columbus, Anamoose, Page, Rhame and Munich, which won the tournament in 1992.

Since 2000, however, Strasburg and Mandaree have been the only oddballs in the mix. Otherwise, they’ve been the likes of Carrington, LaMoure, Mayville, Watford City, Linton, Cando, Northern Cass and Kindred.

This is precisely why there should be a Class C? It would give the kids in the smallest of schools, the chance to compete for a state title, something they might never otherwise have an opportunity to do so unless they just happen to assemble the right players at the right time, which as we demonstrated earlier, is rare.

A Class C tournament would most likely never have the fan base the Class B does, but it would generate a whole new fan base because the small-town faithful would have a chance to win once again.

We have four classes in football, why not three in basketball, and perhaps volleyball?

Can you imagine if there were two classes in football? You’d see teams like Napoleon against Watford City or Lisbon against Edgeley. It just isn’t very competitive.

Imagine a Class C team like Clyde going up against Class B Carrington in the 1962 tournament or Souris vs. Ellendale in 1959?

A lot of the demographics have changed since then, but the principal remains the same, the big schools are beating the tar out of the small schools.

It’s getting to a point that some people no longer tune into the statewide television coverage of the Class B because the winners are becoming more predictable and that takes a lot of the excitement out of it.

Many of the small-school participants in the history of the tournament no longer exist, but for those that do, give them a chance.