The Fertile-Beltrami Falcons played an outstanding all-around game to build a big lead to defeat the Red Lake Warriors in the Section 8A Boys Basketball Championship game, 92-67, on Friday at the Ralph Englestad Arena in Thief River Falls. Fertile-Beltrami will make its fourth state boys basketball tournament in school history and the first since 2001. All four have been under the coaching of Neil Steffes, who is in his 31st year as head coach at Fertile-Beltrami.

The game started as a defensive battle before Jack Brown drained a three for Red Lake to give the Warriors an early lead. Red Lake was able to build up a 9-7 lead.  Fertile-Beltrami settled in and battled back with a 6-0 run started by Caiden Swenby with a basket; Easton Petry had a basket in the paint before Swenby had a steal and went in for a big two-hand dunk for a 13-9 lead seven minutes into the game. Red Lake’s Gerald Kingbird Jr. knocked down a three to stop the run, but Swenby matched that to give the Falcons a 16-12 lead about halfway through the first half. Later in the half, Brown hit another three, and Fertile-Beltrami led 19-17 with 6:15 left in the half. Fertile-Beltrami dominated the final six minutes as they ended the half on a 27-10 run. The Falcons started the run with a Masen Nowacki three-pointer. Caleb Stoltman followed with a three-pointer, and after a Red Lake three-pointer, Nowaski buried another three-pointer. After two Red Lake free throws, Swenby hit a baseline jumper before the Falcons got a steal, leading to a Derek Sorenson missed a layup, but Bryer Strem hustled down the floor to get the rebound and passed the ball back to Sorenson for a basket to for a 32-21 lead. Preston Hanson hit back-to-back threes for the Falcons to make it 38-24 with only a couple of minutes left in the half. With 30 seconds left in the half, Sorenson hit a corner three for Fertile-Beltrami to go up 44-24, but Red Lake’s Jack Brown responded with a three with six seconds remaining. Swenby took the inbound pass, went down the floor, and hit a midrange jumper as time expired to give Fertile-Beltrami a 46-27 halftime lead. 

In the second half, Fertile-Beltrami got off to a good start, with Sorenson scoring the first points on a short jump shot and Hanson making two free throws. After a Red Lake three-pointer, Swenby had a strong take to the basket and converted a three-point play before Stoltman got a bank shot down low to cap a 9-3 run for a 55-30 lead.  With Fertile-Beltrami leading 57-33, Red Lake started to head up from three-point land as Brown hit back-to-back threes to make it 57-39 as Fertile-Beltrami called timeout. Later in the half, Brown tried a three, which was too strong, but Kingbird Jr. got the offensive rebound and put it back in to make it 64-50 almost halfway through the second half. Fertile-Beltrami settled down and got back to what got them the lead with outstanding defense and making their shots as they went on an 8-2 lead to take a 72-52 lead. Ryan Kingbird got a basket down low for Red Lake, but Sorenson used a short floater to give the Falcons a 20-point lead again. The Falcons strung together multiple passes, which found Stoltman down low as he got an and one to make it 83-57. With about two minutes left in the game, Red Lake got a steal by Brown as he threw a lob to Kingbird Jr., who threw it down with one hand, but Fertile-Beltrami wasn’t phased, and both teams went to the bench in the final minutes as the Falcons won the game 92-67.

The Fertile-Beltrami Falcons advance to State with a record of 25-6 and make the fourth state boys basketball tournament appearance in program history and the first since 2001. The seeding meeting is Saturday morning, and Fertile-Beltrami will play at 11 AM, 1, 3, or 5:00 PM at Target Center on Thursday, March 21. KROX will have all Fertile-Beltrami games on the radio.
The Red Lake Warriors end their season with a record of 22-8.

Click here for Coach Gullickson’s post-game interview. 

Click here for Coach Steffes’s post-game interview. 

Click here for Derek Sorenson’s post-game interview. 

Click here for Masen Nowacki’s post-game interview.

Click here for Caiden Swenby’s post-game interview.

Red Lake
27 40 67
46 46 92
For Fertile-Beltrami
Caiden Swenby 25
Derek Sorenson 17
Preston Hanson 16
Masen Nowacki 11
Caleb Stoltman 9
Easton Petry
Drew Gullickson
Gage Henrickson
Bryer Strem
Cody Opdahl


For Red Lake
Jack Brown 28
Gerald Kingbird Jr. 17
Austin Perkins 4
Ryan Kingbird 4
David Dudley Jr.
Tyrone Beaulieu Jr.
Dimitrius Harris
Anthony Day


2024 Section 8A Boys Basketball Championship (3-15-24)