February 17, 2017 2:30 pm
Editor’s Note: NDHSAA Media Specialist Tom Mix writes periodic feature stories showcasing individuals, teams and coaches associated with NDHSAA sponsored sports and activities. They appear on NDHSAA NOW.
By Tom Mix
NDHSAA Media Specialist
FARGO – Times are good for Fargo Davies’ boys basketball team.
The Eagles climbed to the No. 1-ranking in the latest North Dakota Class A poll released on Wednesday, February 15 and improved to 19-0 with a 89-54 Eastern Dakota Conference win over Valley City on Thursday, February 16.
It all starts with Davies’ strong returning core that finished third at the state tournament a year ago. Seniors Jake Paper, Matt Veit, Ty Setness and Andy Baer all have played significant minutes on the varsity over the last two seasons. Mix in sophomore Jaden Klabo, who was a spark off the bench midway through his freshman season and the Eagles entered 2016-17 with an experienced group.
“Automatically there was a foundation built for us with how many returners we had back from last season,” Davies head coach Bart Manson said. “Starting from that level maybe put us ahead of everyone at the beginning of the season. We have talked as a team all year that the EDC is really good and if we do not keep improving those teams will catch up with us.”
Davies hosts West Fargo Sheyenne Tuesday, February 21 and ends the regular season at West Fargo on Thursday, February 23. Sheyenne is third in the EDC standings and West Fargo is in second.
Those two games will be a challenge, but Paper said this year the Eagles haven’t taken any opponent lightly.
“There were some games last year where we didn’t come out to play and underestimated a couple of teams,” said Paper, who stands 6-foot-7. “This year we knew we’d have a target on our backs so we knew we’d have to come out ready to play each game.”
Paper averages 20 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. Paired together with 6-foot guard Matt Veit, who averages 16.6 ppg and 4.8 assists per game, and the Eagles have their best two-player combo since Tanner Kretchman and Andrew Kozlowski, who helped lead the Eagles to the 2014 Class A state championship.
Kretchman and Kozlowski were both guards. The Paper-Veit combo is a different variety – one Manson holds in high esteem.
“As far as a guard-post combo they are best that I’ve coached,” Manson said. “They are the key reason we have won a lot of games the last three years … They are a pretty good two to start with. We also have four to five guys who average six to eight points per game, which on top of what Matt and Jake give us is really nice.”
“We are a very unselfish team,” Paper added. “We dish out a lot of assists a game. Nobody really cares about their own stats at the end of the day. We care most about the win.”
A lot can happen in the next eight games. Veit said the Eagles are taking things one game at a time and not looking too far ahead even though the postseason is drawing closer.
“We’re not really worried about EDC or state right now, we are focused on the next game,” Veit said. "Last year didn’t end the way we wanted it to. This year we have the same goal we did a year ago to keep going and work hard to get where we want to be.”
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