Rugby looking for good things at District 11 Tournament
Rugby headed into its Jan. 30 game with Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood on a four-game losing streak, a 2-10 overall record and a berth in the Region 6 Tournament the farthest thing on the Panthers mind.
And then the tide turned.
Rugby has won four of its remaining seven regular season games, including knocking off the District 11 top team – Towner-Granville-Upham – and head into this week’s District 11 Tournament to be played in Rugby on a roll.
“We’re playing pretty decent ball right now,’ said Rugby coach Mike Santjer. “We’ve controlled some of the problems we’ve had to deal with earlier in the season, especially turnovers.”
Rugby is the No. 4 seed and will face No. 5 Bottineau in a first round game this Friday, Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. The Panthers defeated the Braves in overtime earlier this month at home, and know they are in for another battle.
“They do pose a bit of a matchup problem for us in that they are not very big, but strong and quick,’ Santjer said. “We need to make sure we battle hard inside (for loose balls) and hit our open shots. It just be an entertainment game.”
Rugby has won its last six first round games at the tournament, including a win last season as a No. 4 seed. However, a first round win doesn’t guarantee a team will move on to regionals as Rugby found out last season. The Panthers dropped their next two tourney games to end their season.
“At the beginning of the season our goals were to grow as a team and show improvement and we’ve done that in recent weeks,’ he said. We definitely think we have a shot at getting to regionals, but we can’t take a game off and think we’re going to get there. We have to compete hard every game. This district is pretty tight and there is a number of teams capable of stringing some good games together. I expect a lot of close games.”
Turnovers have hurt the Panthers all season and limiting them this week is a must. They also have continue to get balanced scoring and play the tenacious style of defense which has been present over the past four weeks.
A win by the Panthers over Bottineau likely will set up a semifinal game against top-seeded T-G-U. Rugby was the only district team to defeat the Titans this season.
T-G-U is No. 1 seed
For the first time since 2003, Towner-Granville-Upham is the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
The Titans will open the tournament against No. 8 Sawyer this Friday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m.
T-G-U went 6-1 against district foes this season, but coach Shane Walker knows by no means is his squad head and shoulders above the rest of the district field. Several of the district games were close, including an overtime win over Dunseith. The only blemish was a 10-point defeat to Rugby.
The squad won nine straight games in the middle of the season, but enter the tournament, having dropped two of their last three games.
T-G-U has several capable scorers and a deep bench which will play into their favor. Junior Tyler Thorson has been the team’s most consistent offensive scorer, averaging over 12 points per game.
The key for the Titans will be defense. At times the squad has played well and other times have struggled to hold teams down.
T-G-U has reached the past two district title games, but is still looking for its first championship.
A win over Sawyer would put the Titans into a semifinal match with either Rugby or Bottineau.
Other first round games
No. 2 Velva will host No. 7 Drake-Anamoose at 6 p.m. on Feb. 26. No. 3 Dunseith will meet No. 6 Westhope-Newburg in the final first round game of the day at 7:30 p.m.
The semifinals will be played on Saturday, Feb. 27 with two region qualifying and the championship on Monday, March 1.
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