Well folks, it took 50 years, but North Dakota now has a three-class high school basketball system. The North Dakota High School Activities Association has now approved the starting a third class next fall.
Advocates, mostly from the smaller communities in the state, have fought for this since Class C went away in 1963. But the state’s population dynamic has changed dramatically since then and it was time ramp up a third class.
This time, however, instead of Class C, the new class will be Class B, along with a Class A and Class AA.
As you might imagine, the largest high schools in the state, those with 400 students or more, will be competing in Class AA. That means the big guys like Fargo Davies, Bismarck Century and the like will compete against each other.
Class A, with 162 to 400 students will take into account many schools that have grown over the years, but not enough to be competitive against the largest schools. The best examples here are Watford City and Central Cass.
For several years, Watford City was the fastest growing community in the state and as the town grew, so did the school system. Unfortunately, by virtue of that growth, the Wolves had to compete against the bigger schools and typically got clobbered because it was so new to them.
Central Cass has grown rapidly as well, in fact all of Cass County has seen substantial growth. But again, a growing school in Casselton just doesn’t have the giddy up to beat the likes of West Fargo Sheyenne or Grand Forks Central.
Alexander is also an example of mismatching. For years it was one of the smallest schools in the state and it didn’t have sports teams, or if it did, as in football, it competed in a 6-man Montana league. As the oil boom pushed more people to Alexander, the school grew just like Watford City. Teams popped up, and because of the school’s population, it had to compete against bigger schools like Dickinson Trinity, Beulah or Bowman. In the fall of 2023, the Comets will have a level playing field.
This new, three-class basketball system isn’t totally equitable, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
The smallest schools; Lewis & Clark North Shore, Glenburn, Lakota, Flasher, Wilton and others such as Strasburg-Zeeland, will play Class B as they have. But this time, any school with fewer than 162 students will be in Class B.
That still means there could be some lopsided competition, but as mentioned earlier, it’s a step in the right direction.
Case in point: In a theoretical state Class B tournament, Alexander could play against Langdon, Beach could play against Ellendale or Lewis & Clark-Berthold might have to play Cavalier.
But as we all know, tournaments can have upsets and near upsets. Remember tiny Epping vs. Hillsboro? Yes, Hillsboro won that 1977 tournament 56-52, but it was a classic David and Goliath scenario.
Before 1963, only the smallest schools were considered Class C. And without having to look it up, it’s almost a guarantee that most of those schools don’t exist any longer, or have consolidated with larger schools in the region.
Hague, Carpio, Border Central in Calvin, Streeter, Portal, Braddock, Willow City, Souris and Makoti are all schools that no longer exist but competed in the old Class C league.
This time around, there are plenty of co-ops, such as Linton-HMB, that still gives students from Braddock, Hazelton and Moffit a chance to play boys or girls basketball.
To some of us old-timers, we feel we’ve lost our identity when we co-op with another school. But the kids can be on championship teams and that’s what counts here.