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Cass Lake-Bena senior Nate Howard.

Section 8A Boys Basketball: Cass Lake-Bena plays for state tournament berth tonight against Warren-Alvarado-Oslo

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The Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team will have a chance to reach a third straight state tournament today.

The Panthers meet Warren-Alvarado-Oslo in the Section 8A Championship at 7 p.m. at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.

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Cass Lake-Bena won the East Subsection title Tuesday night with an 86-68 win over rival Red Lake at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Panthers were the No. 2 seed out of the East.

Warren-Alvarado-Oslo won the West Subsection title Tuesday night with a 64-63 win over Stephen-Argyle at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Ponies were the No. 1 seed out of the West.

Tonight's game should feature offense and Cass Lake-Bena head coach Dan Ninham said the Panthers will not be taking the Ponies lightly.

"They were the No. 1 seed in their subsection for a reason," Ninham said after Tuesday's win. "They are a very good team."

WAO enters the title game with a 21-6 overall record and is seeking its first state tournament trip since 1989.

Cass Lake-Bena enters the game with a 23-6 overall record and is seeking its fourth state tournament in five years.

Cass Lake-Bena has excelled this season without forwards Nate and Joel Salscheider, who were all-Americans last season as seniors.

The Panthers have reloaded this year by using an effective combination of players at forward position in Tyler Trosen, Ben Cameron, Nolan Goss and Ryan Conner.

But what drives the offense this season is the guard play of Martin Wind, Nate Howard and Jeromy O'Brien.

They combined to score 65 of the Panthers 86 points Tuesday.

"Their guards are deadly shooters," WAO head coach Todd Mortimer said. "If you leave any of them open, they hit the shots."

Wind's last basket against Red Lake gave him 1,854 points for his career, passing Byron Ninham for No. 2 on the all-time Cass Lake-Bena's scoring list. He only trails current Bemidji State sophomore Brady Fairbanks' 1,962 career points at CLB.

Wind leads the Panthers with a 24.4 points per game average and is followed by Howard (21.7 ppg) and O'Brien (15.9 ppg).

The Panthers will be trying to stop WAO's duo of Casey Larson (23.8 ppg) and Ryan Oas (20.0 ppg). No other WAO player averages double figures.

The Ponies average 73.5 points scored per game and have scored 75 points or more 17 times this season.

Those are numbers the Panthers have the ability to match as Cass Lake-Bena averages 94.5 points scored per game.

"We're similar," Mortimer said. "We both like an up-tempo pace. We both like to shoot the three." "I don't look for a game with the teams scoring in the 40s. But I think it would be better suited for us if it was in the 60s. As much as we like an up-tempo game, they like it more."

The Grand Forks Herald contributed to this story.

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