Rugby falls at Region 6 Tournament
All signs were pointing to a long overdue win at the Region 6 Tournament for Rugby’s girls basketball team.
The Panthers were:
-Breaking Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood’s full-court press with ease the entire game.
-Getting secondary scoring from their bench, including three three-point field goals from Tessa Koenig.
-Forcing the Mavericks into committing several turnovers.
-Getting a big second half from junior Crystal Hovland, who scored 12-third quarter points.
-Leading by six points with under four minutes to play.
Unfortunately, the one thing the Panthers couldn’t do was contain M-L-S senior standout Summer Romine for four quarters.
The 5-6 forward finished with a game-high 23 points, including the game-winning basket with 26 seconds remaining.
Following a time out from Rugby, the Panthers had three shot attempts in the final seconds from Koenig, Hovland and Emily Paul, but the ball just wouldn’t find the basket and the Panthers’ season ended with a 37-35 first round tournament loss in Minot on Feb. 22.
“This one will sting for awhile,’ Rugby coach Jennifer Brossart said. “It was a disappointing finish.”
The second seeded Panthers knew they had a good opportunity to defeat No. 3 M-L-S for a second time this season.
It was a low-scoring first half which featured nine lead changes. The Mavericks largest lead was four points while Rugby’s biggest advantage was two on several occasions.
Romine scored 13 of her team’s 17 points in the opening half, including a three pointer in the final seconds to give the Mavericks a 17-16 lead at the break.
Rugby was led by junior reserve Tessa Koenig who had two three-point field goals in the half. The Panthers’ quickness forced M-L-S to commit 12 first-half turnovers.
The third quarter belonged to Hovland, who scored 12 of Rugby’s 15 points. Just as important, the Panthers held Romine to just two points.
The Panthers led by as many as eight points, but M-L-S trimmed it to four with a quarter to play.
Hovland’s basket in the opening minute gave Rugby a six-point lead. Romine came back with a bucket of her own.
After a Rugby timeout, senior Chelsea Halvorson’s basket made it 35-29 with 5:27 to play.
However, the Panthers offense went dormant the rest of the way, committing some costly turnovers.
M-L-S would score the final eight points – six coming from Romine.
“We had too many turnovers in that last five minutes,’ Brossart said. “We didn’t attack the basket and force Mohall to foul us. We played not to lose, and when you do that, you’re going to lose.”
Rugby, which averaged 55 points per game, scored 35 and 31 in its final two games.
“Every time this year we were held under 40, we lost,’ Brossart said. “We needed more players to rise to the occasion.”
Hovland would finish with 16 points to lead the squad. Koenig finished with nine.
Although the squad did not attain its goal of advancing to the semifinal round at regionals, there was several positives that came out of the season.
Rugby recorded a winning record (14-9) for the first time since 2001. It also reached the District 11 title game for the first time since 2001 and defeated several teams which had the Panthers number in recent seasons, including Bottineau.
Ten players will return to the program next year, including a large senior class and top scorer Hovland.
Brossart hopes this tough loss will create added incentive to put in extra time preparing for next season.
The team is going to miss the contributions of its seniors – Mariya Bernhardt, Chelsea Halvorson and Amanda Longie.
Brossart noted the community support of the team was outstanding. “We had several big crowds throughout the year, including at the district final in Drake and at regionals. The girls really get a lift when they see that support and appreciate it.”
Brossart also acknowledged the time her assistant coaches -Brenda Bernhardt and Deb Goven -put in. “I really appreciate their help with the summer league and throughout the season,’ she said.
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