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Unbeaten BBE eyes state trip

A majority of coaches would much rather have a loss of their team's record heading into post-season, especially one later in the season to avoid complacency.

But Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa seems to be gaining steam with each game.

"We never talked about it, but we all knew we didn't want to lose," said BBE coach Dave Montbriand. "People said it would be good for us, But we never believed that. These kids are so competitive. Getting to state wasn't going to be any easier if we had a loss. To me, the pressure and excitement is the same no matter what your record is."

The Jaguars (29-0) enter the Section 6A boys basketball championship tonight against Norman County East (22-6) boasting the only unbeaten record in the state.

"Norman County East is hot," he exclaimed. "With 15 straight wins, they are obviously confident. We need to do exactly what we've done all year, nothing more, nothing less. Play hard, play smart, and have fun."

It's hard not to have fun when you're in the driver's seat of a steamroller that has a winning margin of 37 points in three post-season games.

The Jaguars weren't on cruise control all season despite not absorbing any losses. They won two games in overtime, one by two points and another by four points earlier in the season.

"We really came together after our comeback win (63-62 in overtime Feb. 4) at Maple Lake," Montbriand said. "Our confidence has just kept growing with each win. This team has not taken winning for granted. The enthusiasm and effort seems to top itself each game."

Kevin Kuefler leads the team in scoring at 19.3 ppg. Kuefler had been the team's shooting guard until moving to point this season. The switch didn't faze the 6-foot-4 senior.

"Kevin helped our team tremendously by moving to point, while we groomed freshman Brian Goodwin for the job," Montbriand remarked. "That was our big question mark entering the season. Once Brian was ready about halfway through the year, Kevin moved back to his natural position."

Goodwin has played like a season veteran in the second half of the season, averaging 9.0 ppg.

"Brian has really sparked the team and Kevin has taken his game to a new level. Playing point really improved his ball-handling, too."

The Jaguars have seven players that have scored 18-or-more points in a game this season.

Connor Goodwin, a 6-6 junior post, averages 13.2 ppg; Brady Koehler, a 6-5 senior forward, 12.8 ppg; Kirby Montbriand, a 6-3 junior guard, 9.2 ppg; Brent Koehler, a 6-4 senior forward, 6.4 ppg; and Brandon DeKok, a 6-3 senior center, 4.6 ppg.

Norman County East knows it has its hands full trying to contain the Jaguars.

"We can't score with them," said NCE coach Mike Sather. "So we're going to have to rebound with them and not turn the ball over against their pressure defense. We have to make them earn every shot. They are the real deal."

Scott Lampton, a 6-6 senior post, leads the Eagles in scoring (18 ppg) and rebounding (11 ppg).

Matt Anderson, a 5-8 senior guard; Blaine Thronson, a 5-9 senior wing; and Nathan LaPort, a 6-4 junior forward, all average 8 ppg.