Brianna Beecher has had a prep sports career most high school athletes can only dream about. Beecher is widely considered one of the best volleyball setters in the state; she has a permanent place in the Hazen record books not only for career stats but individual as well. A room in the Beecher family house is stacked with medals, trophies and award certificates. Even with all her achievements, Beecher couldn't add her most prized honor to her resume until last weekend when Hazen made the Class B Girls State Basketball Tournament held at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
The Hazen-Beulah boys' hockey team set out early in the season with a goal to advance to the West Region Tournament, avoiding the play-in game that plagued their advancement the past few years. After they had achieved that with the defeat of Dickinson Feb. 12, the North Stars final season game against Minot slipped off the radar, ending in a 9-2 loss. But the atmosphere was completely different less than seven days later as Minot and the North Stars were matched up again in the opening day of the West Region Tournament Thursday.
Calm, confidently Kate Berg wiped the beads of sweat away from her face before giving her teammate a nod. Then Berg flicked the ball off her fingertips and in for the free throw. The Hazen junior made 4-of-4 from the charity stripe and 20 points in the contest as the Bison defeated Dickinson Trinity to claim the District 14 Championship Monday. "I don't know what to say; I had a job to do and I did it," Berg said of the final two free throws that clinched the game. "You have to be in your own world. We practice that a lot in practice."
Even though the Hazen girls' basketball team has a perfect record, they are allowed a bad day or two. Head coach Leland Opp is just thankful it happened before the postseason. Hazen 65, Washburn 62 Hazen has played every kind of team this season but they couldn't have expected the night they were walking into Friday. A solid Region 5 contender, Washburn didn't have a very exciting start. The Bison sure did with 22 points in the first eight minutes.
It has been seven weeks in the making but the Hazen girls' basketball team can finally say they set out to do, at least in part, what they envisioned at the beginning of the season. Saving one of the best for last, the Bison claimed a 53-35 victory over rivals Beulah Jan. 29 to officially lock up the District 14 regular season title as well as the No. 1 seed going into the district tournament beginning Feb. 13 in Hazen. "It gives us a lot of confidence and more drive to keep working hard in practice," explained Hazen's sole senior Brianna Beecher. "It's a lot of pressure but it's good pressure."
The rivalry is as old as the two towns but the atmosphere of the gym when Hazen and Beulah meet is historic. Last Friday night was no exception in the Beulah High School gym as the Bison claimed the first meeting with a 56-52 win that counts toward the District 14 standings. Hazen started the contest with an 8-2 lead after sneaking in a pass to Clay Brinkman. But the Miner Gabe Goetz was not about to let the Bison get on a roll as he confidently drained the 3-pointer.
Whoever said basketball is a game of runs, could never be proven more accurate. The Hazen boys fell behind by double-digits in the early going, only to scrap their way back to a gutsy 62-57 home Region 7 win last Friday night over the Bowman County Bulldogs. Momentum doesn't shift by accident, Hazen head coach Randy Johnson said, but instead must be created.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches tall, Clay Brinkman has a hard time going unnoticed anywhere. And with his sluggish demeanor and easygoing personality, the Hazen senior is one of the more unique characters on the Bison roster. Overshadowed by his teammate's accomplishments so far this season, Brinkman peaked at just the right time this past week making sure the teams facing the Herd know not to overlook him. The Bison post had 39 points, 15 rebounds and six steals in two games, adding key elements in Hazen's pair of wins.
For most teams, the preseason ended in late November. However, for the Hazen-Beulah girls' hockey team, practices still have that feel to it. Though the Novas' regular season started Nov. 25, they haven't played a game in almost a month.