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Chapman: Panthers providing excitement

By Staff | Feb 28, 2014

This is one of those awkward weeks of sports coverage when working at a weekly newspaper. We have a print deadline at 5 p.m. on Thursdays. If not, I’d be using this space for analysis of the Region 6 championship game between Rugby and Des Lacs-Burlington.

The conclusion of that game is well known by now, but don’t forget to visit our website for a recap.

As I write this ahead of the game, the anticipation continues to build. The Panthers are 24-0 and beat DL-B by 24 points during a regular season meeting at RHS. DL-B senior Tanner Holte posted 40 points on Our Redeemer’s to earn the rematch with Rugby, who beat Berthold 64-50 in the other semifinal.

Win or lose, this Rugby team is easily one of the smartest high school basketball teams most of us have been around. They just don’t make many mistakes and just when you think you know who will have the big night, someone different steps up.

On Tuesday, it was senior guard Jaedon Haman. The scrappy defender usually doesn’t have to be much of a factor, offensively, with three teammates averaging double figures. Yet Haman came out ready to shoot and Berthold couldn’t keep up early. Haman hit his first three jump shots and scored 10 of his team-high 14 points.

And down went the Bombers in the 24th straight losing effort against a Rugby team that knows how to finish games and dominate third quarters. High school teams just usually aren’t this crisp. It’s been a fun ride to take part in.

Not to be outdone, the RHS girls put together their best week of the season with upsets of No. 3 North Star and No. 6 Rolla on Feb. 18 and Feb. 21, respectively. Coach Jen Brossart called it the most relaxing week of her coaching career and it was clear why. The Panthers played two gritty ballgames and stepped up when leading scorer Shea Heidlebaugh suffered an ankle injury midway through the first game.

Against Rolla, junior guard McKenzie Johnson shot the lights out with five 3-pointers and a 20-point performance on the road. Johnson had scoring spurts throughout the season, but nothing like this. She lifted her team in the final regular season game and lit a fire in her own game.

The mild-mannered shooter showed some rare emotion and even cracked a smile during the second-half barrage from long range. Johnson emphatically slapped five with a teammate during a timeout and her newfound enthusiasm was contagious throughout the roster.

The exhilarating postseason ride continues as the girls host the District 11 tournament today and Monday. Good luck Panthers!

And to think March just started.

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