RHS the best?
The Rugby High School boys basketball team is preparing for another deep run following last year’s state tournament appearance. The Panthers are the preseason favorite to win District 11, but coach Mike Santjer is expecting stiff competition.
“It’ll be a definite battle as we go through because we might have a little bit of an advantage,” Santjer said, “but we’re gonna have to play good night in and night out, so I hope we’re at the top.”
The Panthers lost three starters to graduation including Region 6 Senior Athlete of the Year Kyle Lovcik, along with Josh Michels and Kyle Halvorson. Brad Heidlebaugh and Chris Hamilton return in leading roles.
“Those two guys have grown a lot, learned a lot and had a lot of fun with it,” Santjer said. “They like to be on top, they kind of thrive on that and are up to the challenge. They like that feeling. Yeah, when you’re the underdog you have nothing to lose, but there’s something about taking pride and being on top and trying to stay there.”
Santjer expects TGU, Westhope-Newburg and Dunseith to contend for the other top seeds in the district.
The Titans return senior center Luke Bacon and junior guard Eli Luna. First-year coach Mike Corum has a talented squad with players loaded with winning experience in multiple sports.
“Knowing that it’s a tough district, it’s very helpful to have the players that just came off a successful football season in shape,” Corum said. “It seems the players already know how to play together, which is something I don’t have to stress on, which is nice for a new coach.”
Getting out of Region 6 will be tough for any District 11 team as District 12 favorite Des Lacs-Burlington boasts a dangerous offense.
“They’re gonna like to shoot a lot, put up a lot of points,” Santjer said. “You have to be able to score with them in a way. We’ve prided ourselves the last few years on playing good defense. If we can keep the scoring manageable, I like our shot. We’ve played them tough.”
RHS opens its season on Tuesday against Langdon Area.