Fairmount-Campbell-Tintah girls hoops making first trip to state since 1975
FAIRMOUNT, N.D. - A banner with "one goal" scrolled on it has hung on the south baseline wall in the gymnasium at Fairmount Public School all winter.
FAIRMOUNT, N.D. – A banner with "one goal" scrolled on it has hung on the south baseline wall in the gymnasium at Fairmount Public School all winter.
It served as a reminder of what was expected of the Fairmount-Campbell-Tintah girls basketball team this season – to qualify for state. The program came close to attaining that goal the previous two seasons.
The Rebels' goal was obtained last week in Wahpeton with a win over Kindred in the North Dakota Class B, Region 1 championship game, giving F-C-T a spot in the state tournament that begins Thursday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
"The one goal was to finally win the Region 1 championship and now that we did that, we are moving that one goal to try and get as far as we can at state," said Madison Kaehler, a 6-foot-3 senior center who averages 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. "It is sinking in a little more each day that we are going to be playing in the state tournament."
F-C-T plays No. 1-seeded North Star at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.
"I don't think we are satisfied with just getting there," said F-C-T senior point guard Jayden Rittenour, who averages 13.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. "That was our goal and we are happy, but we want to go far. We don't want to get eighth place."
The No. 5-ranked Rebels (22-1) had to put memories of losing Region 1 championship games in 2014 and 2015 by a combined margin of eight points behind them.
"When the buzzer went off it didn't feel real," junior forward Allison Grefsrud said of Thursday's win. "The fact that we had won after losing in that game two years in a row was overwhelming."
The last time the program played in a state tournament was 1975 when Fairmount qualified for the second North Dakota High School Activities Association sanctioned Class B girls basketball tournament. Wayne Johnson, now the women's basketball coach at Dakota College at Bottineau, was the coach of the 1975 Fairmount squad.
"Girls basketball was just getting organized at that time and all the girls were proud to be playing," Johnson said. "That year we were undefeated until Sargent Central beat us in overtime in the District 1 tournament. But we were able to come back and win the region to get to state. We were a small team, but we played very good defense. Our offense went through our 5-foot-6 center Karen Mahler and her twin sister Kathy. ... Being a small school we went a long way with what we had that year."
Fairmount lost to Mayville-Portland in the quarterfinals and lost its consolation game the next day. The Rebels – winners of their last 21 games – are hoping things go better this time around.
"I think we can scare North Star with our press," F-C-T head coach Brenda Dahlgren said. "They are a younger team so if we can force them into some bad passes and if we make some early layups maybe we can get them to panic a little. Applying pressure is an area where we'll need to come out on top."
North Star features 6-foot-5 junior Macey Kvilvang, who is being recruited by North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota.
"Madison will be important because they also have a 6-foot-5 girl on their team," said F-C-T junior guard Harmony Burns, who averages 14.5 points per game. "She'll need to be on her game and play the way we all know she can."
If you go
What: North Dakota Class B girls basketball state tournament
Where: Alerus Center
When: Thursday through Saturday