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Defensive stopper

Bernhardt fills big role for Panther girls

February 5, 2010
Matt Mullally

Rugby senior Mariya Bernhardt's impact on the basketball court can be seen by looking at the score sheet after each game.

Not the Panthers' score sheet, mind you, but the opponents'.

Bernhardt is Rugby's defensive stopper, a role the 5-8 forward enjoys.

"I love playing's such a thrill to match up against a top scorer and try and shut them down,' Bernhardt said.

And she's been doing quite well in that role, according to Panther coach Jennifer Brossart.

"She's just 5-8, but she has such a long wingspan with her arms, she can take up a lot of space,' Brossart said. "She's frustrated a lot of players."

And that's one of the rewards.

"Yeah, I can tell when I'm getting in their head,' Bernhardt said. "You can see it sometimes on their faces."

She credits her experiences of playing on the varsity for the past three seasons, and current and past coaches for making her an effective defender. "They taught me a lot of tips,' she said.

Mariya realizes that keeping a top player below their scoring average is just as good as scoring points herself.

Of course, she can do that too, but she's not called upon to be a big contributor.

"I don't shine so much on offense, but I have my favorite spot,' she said. "The left baseline...that's my butter spot."

Mariya has proven she can hit a 10-footer from that location. "I think in the Dunseith game I hit five in a row from that spot,' she recalls.

Bernhardt has also taken her senior captain role seriously, not afraid to be vocal in the locker room or the team huddle.

She credits her teammates for buying into the team game. "We play hard for each other,' Bernhardt said. "We are closer than a team...we're a family."

With the postseason right around the corner, Bernhardt hopes her final playoff run will be a long one. She's set two ambitious goals.

One, to knock off Bottineau, and two, win a district championship.

Both could be accomplished this week at the district tournament with three straight wins.

"We're playing well right now and hopefully we can step it up at the tournament,' she said.



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