Panthers continue to cruise
The Rugby boys basketball team continued to cruise through the first quarter of its season, but the unbeaten Panthers will get a stiff test on Dec. 21 and 22.
The Panthers moved to 6-0 with a 57-33 victory over Bishop Ryan and 64-33 win over Harvey-Wells County.
While no team has come within single digits of Rugby through the first six games of the season, but the Panthers face off two of the state’s best, traveling to Cando to face No. 3-ranked Cavalier on Dec. 21 before returning home to take on top-ranked North Star on Dec. 22.
Rugby used an up-tempo attack to down both Ryan and Harvey-WC.
“Our game is still getting up and down the floor and running,” head coach Mike Santjer said. “When we can do that, especially to start a game and jump on them early, that’s always a benefit and then they’re playing catch up. That helps us out tremendously.”
Against Ryan, Kyle Lovcik led all scorers with 19 points and Brad Heidlebaugh added 17. It was the usual suspects again in the win over the Hornets as Lovcik and Heidlebaugh contributed 17 each.
Heidlebaugh said although Rugby hasn’t been tested, it has continued to keep its focus and has tried to improve.
“We just have to play hard every game and we can’t let down,” Heidlebaugh said. “When we let down that’s when bad habits start to form.”
Santjer pointed to the team’s defensive effort as well, as the Panthers held both teams to just 33 points.
“We have been playing some pretty good defense,” he said. “If we weren’t playing good defense, teams would be scoring on us.”
Against Ryan, the Panthers led by just six points at half before blowing the game open in the second half. Contrary to that performance, Rugby held an 18-3 lead after the first quarter against H-WC and never looked back.
In both games, Rugby dominated the boards and made the best of offensive rebounds, transferring them into points.
“We’ve been getting some second attempts,” Santer said. “We have some kids that are long, good leapers, which is helping. We’ve held teams, most of the time, to one shot and out. If we can continue to do that, I like our chances.”
Against the Hornets, Rugby continued to work the transition game but was methodical in the half-court set.
“We think when we get the right five guys on the floor, we can cause some huge matchup problems,” he said. “We have some guards that can post up. When we’re in a half court offense, if we can be patient, we’ll get a good shot.”
Santjer said the games on the weekend just prior to the holidays will be a good measuring stick for the Panthers.
“Absolutely, we have Cavalier,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve played them in quite a few years. They’re long and athletic so they’re going to match up pretty well with us. They’re No. 3 in the state. They didn’t get there because they aren’t good.”
Rugby will host North Star, which has been among the best teams in the state for the past handful of years. He expects the Rugby gym to be packed.
“They’ve been among the state’s best,” he said. “You always have to deal with (Jacob) Hagler and (Daniel) Grande. Coming in last year, we went up there and didn’t put on a good performance. Hopefully this year we can bring them back to our house and it will be a little more of a benefit.”
Although the games will be big, Josh Michels said that Rugby has to play them like they would any other contest.
“We just need to go out and play hard,” Michels said. “We can’t let it get to our heads (that these are big games). If we get out to a fast start and play well, we can compete with any team in the state.”
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