FARGO - What's the most compelling sports story in our area for 2015?
North Dakota State football quickly comes to mind-and for good reasons. The Bison advanced to their fifth straight national championship game and they did it by winning their last eight games without their starting quarterback-Carson Wentz, who will most likely be practicing with an NFL team this summer.
They also have a shot at winning an unprecedented fifth straight title during a so-called rebuilding year. Keep in mind, the Bison started the season with seven starters gone from defense. Now their defense is one of the best in the nation again.
Yes, Bison football is certainly the buzz again this time of year.
But quietly-about a 60-minute drive from Fargo-Moorhead in Norman County of Minnesota-the Ada-Borup High School girls basketball program has created its own buzz. That's why Dave Smart's Cougars have been named The Forum's sports story of the year.
Read reporter Chris Murphy's account today of what makes Ada-Borup girls basketball so successful and you'll discover why it is one of the top sports stories in the area.
Like NDSU football, Ada-Borup girls basketball has become a dominating program. Enroute to its 32-0 state championship season, Ada-Borup produced 20 wins by 30 points or more and 9 wins by an amazing 60 points or more. Except for two games, no team got within 13 points of the Cougars.
Like NDSU football, Smart has created a winning culture for Ada-Borup girls basketball. In his 16 seasons at Ada-Borup, Smart has a 327-106 record with three state championships and eight section titles. Since the 2010-11 season, Ada-Borup had an amazing 148-13 record with third, second and first place finishes at state.
And since a 2006 state tournament appearance, Ada-Borup has not lost back-to-back games.
"We have a reputation to hold up and we love doing it," Ada-Borup senior Morgan Miller told Murphy.
Sounds like Bison football-which, I have the feeling, will be a top contender for our top sports story of 2016. Especially if it wins a fifth national title. And with most of their starters back for next season, they could very well make a run for a sixth straight national title appearance.
But for 2015, Ada-Borup girls basketball captures a close victory (for a change) over Bison football. There were plenty of other stories in 2015 worth mentioning:
- Chad Walthall has Minnesota State Moorhead men's basketball on the rise. After advancing to their first NCAA Division II Elite Eight tournament last spring, the Dragons are highly ranked again this season.
- Darren Mueller, somehow and some way, keeps producing NCAA tournament teams with his NDSU softball program. The Bison reached another tourney last spring, giving top-ranked Oregon a scare.
- Think it's hard to build a softball winner in a cold-weather climate. How about Tom Hoge, a Fargoan who qualified for last summer's U.S. Open golf tournament? Later, he played a Saturday round in a PGA tournament with the legendary Tiger Woods.
- Scheels Arena scored two big events-with the North Dakota state high school hockey tournament coming to Fargo for the first time since 1971 and with an NCAA West Regional hockey tournament. Both events are scheduled to return to Scheels in 2017.
- For the first time since 2003, NDSU and UND played each other in football-where the Bison student section still offered up some anti-Sioux cheers. By the time they play again in 2019, will UND fans be used to the new Fighting Hawks nickname?
- Perhaps the longest streaks to come to an end was when Fargo South's boys tennis team beat Grand Forks Red River in a regular-season match (ending a 211 consecutive dual win streak) and later won a state championship (ending Red River's run of 17 straight titles).
- Speaking of streaks, one that remained alive was the West Fargo girls fastpitch softball team winning a 18th consecutive state championship.
- West Fargo's Jordan Shearer, now wrestling at Nebraska, became the all-time winningest wrestler in North Dakota high school history and became the first six-time individual state champion.
- Fargo Shanley's girls basketball team attained perfection, winning its second straight state championship with a 27-0 record.
- Donny Schatz, formerly of Minot and now calls West Fargo home, won his seventh World of Outlaws sprint car racing championship.
- In the totally-unexpected category, NDSU's men's basketball team advanced to its second straight NCAA Tournament.
- The Fargo Marathon keeps finding ways to make a name for itself. It became the only marathon-out of the more than 700 held in the United States annually-to start and finish indoors. The runners and their fans love the Fargodome.