For a couple of moments, it looked like the Rugby Panthers could rebound in the first round of the Region 6 Boys Basketball tournament at the Minot State University Dome.
But shooting percentages on the night weren't in the Panthers' favor in a 53-38 loss to the Lewis & Clark-Berthold Bombers.
Throughout the first half, the Panthers were shooting 28 percent from the field and missing all attempts from outside the arc. The Bombers meanwhile were shooting 58.3 percent from the field and hitting 50 percent of both three-pointers and free throws on the half.
The Bombers were the ones who struck first, with a two-pointer from forward J.T. Ross. Panther guard Anders Johnson responded in kind just seconds later.
The Bombers then were able to take the lead on a 6-2 run, one that the Panthers couldn't counteract with missed buckets. The Panthers would find themselves down by five at the end of the first quarter.
"The first quarter was kind of a grind-it-out quarter. Rugby's a great defensive team," said Bombers head coach Chris Brown. "We're at our best when we can rebound the basketball and get out and run."
The Panthers would later find themselves on the wrong side of another run late in the second quarter, particularly an 11-2 run slashed by a make from guard Landen Foster. Forward Trace Goven chipped in three points within the final minute of the half, but Bombers forward Reese Hennessy would beat the buzzer on a layup that would put his squad ahead by 16 at halftime.
The Panthers came out to play in the second half, switching to a 1-3-1 style defense that allowed for an early 7-2 run in the third quarter and briefly stunned the Bombers.
"We kind of gave [the Bombers] some problems. They were a little confused on how to move the basketball around," said Panthers head coach Mike Santjer. "Hindsight being 20-20 we probably would've moved to it a little earlier in the first half but we weren't stopping them, we weren't getting back and they were getting some easy shots on us. We said we had to try something we've been working on in practice, we've done it a few times on the year. We tried it and we had some success, we just fell a little short."
The defensive style switch also helped the Panthers to improve their shooting percentages to 40.9 percent from the field and 25 percent from three, while the Bombers were reduced to 16.7 percent from three and 34.8 percent from the field in the half. The Panthers were neck and neck with the Bombers, going 10-10 in the third and 11-10 in the fourth in terms of scoring.
"It kind of took by surprise a little bit," Brown said of the Panthers' defensive style switch.
With the loss in the first round of region tournament play, the Panthers end their season with a 13-10 record.
"We have a nice group of young players coming up, so it's going to be getting them in the gym, getting them in the weight room. You're going to have to fill some spots of some seniors who played some unbelievable roles for us," Santjer said. "We have some young kids that step out and hopefully those juniors can be some leaders for them and hopefully we'll have some success again next year."
(sub.) District 11 eliminated
The Panthers weren't the only team from District 11 eliminated in the first round of the Region 6 tournament.
Nine makes out of 30 three-point attempts gave the region champion Bishop Ryan Lions a 59-37 victory over the Drake-Anamoose Raiders.
District 12 Senior Athlete Drew Pearson shot lights out in three quarters of play, which helped the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers outscore the Westhope-Newburg Sioux 94-62.
A late rally from Leyton Lang helped the Our Redeemer's Christian School Knights defeat the Bottineau Braves, 56-50, and advance.