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BREAKING NEWS: Panthers pounce on Ryan, win region opener

By Staff | Feb 24, 2014

MINOT – In order to win the school’s first state championship in 52 years the Rugby boys basketball team needs to finish the season undefeated.

The Panthers improved to 23-0 on Monday, opening the Region 6 tournament with a 65-48 win over Bishop Ryan at the Minot State University Dome. RHS advanced to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal against No. 10 Berthold. The Bombers beat Drake-Anamoose 72-60 in the first round.

The Lions (15-8) entered the quarterfinal game as the only team to lose to RHS by less than 10 points, but that was in a December meeting at Ryan.

The latest meeting was more indicative of how RHS has handled most teams. Ryan kept it close through the early part of the second quarter, but junior Brad Heidlebaugh and his well-rounded supporting cast took control from there.

Heidlebaugh scored 19 points and hauled in 17 rebounds in the dominant post performance.

“He’s not a guy who has an off night, really,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “He works so hard, he gets good position inside and he shoots a lot of close-range baskets.”

The outside game was clicking for the Panthers too. Bernhardt connected on four 3-pointers and junior reserve Nolan Hovland hit a timely triple to give RHS a 53-37 lead as time expired in the third quarter.

“(Hovland) had a knee injury around Christmas and kind of worked his way back,” Santjer said. “He’s been playing really well and given us some great minutes off the bench. When he can come and do that – and as long as he is, he plays great defense as well.”

The Panthers held Ryan senior Brody Bosch in check, limiting the dangerous scorer to just 15 points – a team high. Bosch scored 26 against Rugby in the previous meeting, but wasn’t able to find the easy lanes to the hoop in the rematch.

“Offensively, we just weren’t able to get in a groove tonight,” Ryan coach Brock Teets said. “We just took shots early in the shot clock, didn’t run things through and against a team like Rugby unless you shoot 60 percent doing those things, you’re not gonna win the game.”

Rugby created space on the scoreboard by finding five scorers in the second quarter. Ryan led by a point after the first, but RHS opened the second quarter on an 11-2 run. Hovland knocked in a long 2-pointer in the closing seconds of the half to give RHS a 30-20 lead.

RHS senior Chris Hamilton hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half and his team held a double-digit lead the rest of the way.

Rugby junior forward Zach Miller was saddled with a fourth foul midway through the fourth quarter. Heidlebaugh comfortably handled play down low despite the team having to go with more of a four-guard look.

“You have to be able to square up and work to kick out the ball to your shooters,” Heidlebaugh said, “and they hit a lot of shots down tonight in the second half.”

Rugby and Berthold will meet for the first time this year. The Bombers (20-3) are led by seniors Austin Lee and Mitchell White. Lee poured in a game-high 29 points on the Raiders and senior Adam Knudsvig added 21. Lee was 5 for 6 from long range.

Titans fall to Knights

The impressive late-season run for TGU came to an end in a quarterfinal loss to Our Redeemer’s Christian School. ORCS won 65-47 in the nightcap of the Region 6 tournament’s opening round.

It was the first region tournament win in school history for the Knights and they advanced to a 7:30 p.m. semifinal against Des Lacs-Burlington on Tuesday. TGU was a longshot to make the region tournament as the No. 6 seed in the District 11 tournament. They upset two teams in that tournament to earn the region berth before falling to Rugby in the final.

The No. 2 seed Titans (12-11) struggled to keep their high-energy game efficient and ORCS took advantage, pulling away in the third quarter with a 15-4 run.

“We had good opportunities. We had good shot selection. They just didn’t fall for us,” TGU coach Mike Corum said. “We didn’t make our free throws either, but they fought hard and they didn’t quit and they fought ’til the end. That’s all we can ask.”

ORCS was led by sophomore Josh VanLith, who was one of three Knights in double figures. VanLith led all scorers with 17 points, classmate John Reiten scored 12 and junior Davis Koppinger added 10 and 14 rebounds. ORCS was 0-3 in region tournaments before Monday.

“More history in the making for us,” ORCS coach Jeremy Feller said. “It’s been a year-full of history. A lot of single-season records broken this year and total wins in the season was broken.”

ORCS (19-4) struggled to contain TGU’s shifty guards early and senior Luke Bacon posed trouble early with his 6-foot-6 frame.

“Defensively, I thought our three bigs did an excellent job guarding Bacon and making his catches be farther away from the hoop,” Feller said, “which therefore made our life easier. He didn’t get those easy catches that I thought he got earlier.”

Feller said his team also focused on limiting penetration by TGU senior Ethan Bachmeier, who had seven of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter.

“Their defense picked up and they were getting a lot of easy shots, easy buckets,” Bachmeier said, “and we just weren’t hitting in the second half.”

Bachmeier was one of three seniors for the Titans under first-year coach Corum. Bachmeier, Bacon and Kendal Green will graduate this spring. Bacon finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

“They started for a reason,” Corum said. “I wish them the best, too, in what they got coming up in what’s next for them. If they work as they did for me then they’ll be successful.”

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