Time to run
Defending their District 11 championship will be a tall task for the Rugby High School girls basketball team … simply because the Panthers aren’t very tall.
RHS has to replace graduate Aubrey Hovland, an all-region selection, and fellow forward Taylor Wangerin (all-district), who moved out of the area.
The Panthers have two freshmen standing six foot and another at 5-foot-11, but will focus on using their depth, experience and speed in the backcourt.
“Absolutely, the depth is something we haven’t had in the past,” RHS coach Jen Brossart said. “When you give up size, you gain speed, so we need to be able to transition. We need to do that and if we get stuck in half-court sets, we may have trouble.”
Sophomore guard Shea Heidlebaugh will be the primary ball handler, but a trio of other guards will be expected to bring the ball up at times.
“(Heidlebaugh) runs the show. She’s very comfortable in the floor-general position. She’s also an excellent shooting guard too, so we want her to come off the ball as well. We’re gonna share some ball time between Shea Heidlebaugh and Darby Deckert, McKenzie Johnson. They’re all very capable of bringing the ball up, as well as (Allison) Volk.”
Deckert, a 5-foot-8 junior, and Heidlebaugh are do-it-all types. Heidlebaugh averaged 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and two assists last season. Deckert averaged nine points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“We’re gonna run a lot and need to wear teams down,” Deckert said. “I think we’ve been working a lot on transition, so we’re filling the lanes when we go down. So it makes it harder for other teams to guard us. We’ll get there before them.”
Junior forwards ReAnn Christenson (5-10), Jacie Lovcik (5-9) and Allison Foster (5-8) will need to mature quickly to provide the Panthers a presence on the boards and to challenge the top opposing post players.
“We’re still a young basketball team and we might take a beating in the post for a while,” Brossart said.
Heidlebaugh, speaking like a veteran point guard, proved she’s prepared to have her team aware of the mismatches it’s likely to face.
“Yeah, we don’t have any height at all,” she said. “We need people to get in there, we need to get rebounds, we need to work on stuff.”
The Panthers finished 14-9 last season and took third in the Region 6 tournament. The Panthers opened the season at home against Langdon Area on Friday and travel to Harvey for the CNDC tournament next week.
Titans open with MLS today
The TGU girls basketball team doesn’t have any early season tune-ups to discover its identity. The Titans open their season against MLS today.
‘They’re a good team and have a lot of people back,” TGU coach Malcolm Marcus said. “They’re coming off a state appearance in volleyball. I think that will propel them here in basketball.”
A key for TGU is getting touches on the block and using its post experience as a primary advantage.
“We do think we have an inside presence with Mattie Schmitt, an all-region player,” Marcus said. “We have some outside shooters and we’ll try to create some offense with pressure defense. We hope to press when we can. We can’t press all the time, but we’re gonna try to force the tempo.”
Schmitt averaged 10 rebounds per game as a junior and had 70 steals and 38 blocks. Senior guards McKenna Thompson and Akesha Juarez will push the pace and apply pressure to make up a strong backcourt tandem. Thompson, an all-region selection, averaged 10 points as a junior and had 64 steals and 62 assists. Juarez averaged seven points and four rebounds.
The Titans finished second in District 11 and fourth in Region 6 with a 17-8 record last year.
Senior-heavy Comets led by Beaver
Rolette-Wolford’s experience alone should earn the team a few extra wins this season. The Comets have six seniors that have been with coach Jill Murtaugh since she first assisted with the program seven years ago. Murtaugh is entering her fifth season as head coach.
“It’s been tremendous,” Murtaugh said. “I’m actually an elementary teacher and when I started they were sixth-graders, so I’ve seen them mature from little kids to young ladies. They’re just a group that continues to work hard.”
Six-foot senior forward Rae Beaver, an all-district selection, will lead the Comets and their post-dominated roster.
“She’s a great leader and very supportive to the younger girls,” Murtaugh said. “She’s a gym rat. She shoots, she lifts, she runs. You ask her to do anything and she will. Very much a team player.”
Beaver’s leadership role is that much more important this season as the team is without all-region guard Kenady Martinson, who is graduating early and already taking college courses.
“(Martinson) did a lot of things for us,” Murtaugh said. “It’s gonna take some time because when she had the ball in her hands she could slow things down.”
Murtaugh added that District 8 is fairly even, but North Star, Carrington and Lakota-Edmore are among the strongest. Beaver averaged 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 steals last season. Senior forward Callie Brorby averaged 10 points and four rebounds and will make it tough for teams to double-team Beaver. The Comets are coming off a 12-11 campaign.
Young Wildcats led by first-year coach
As if a coach’s first season isn’t trying enough, Benson County coach Eric Barnes is also making his debut without a single senior. The Wildcats have five juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen returning from a fifth-place finish in the state.
The Wildcats are the reigning District 8 and Region 4 champions and finished 26-2 last season.
“We’re looking forward to learning this year, that’s for sure,” Barnes said. “We have a lot of new concepts I know none of the girls have ran yet. We want to be fast-paced on offense and defense and playing at a high intensity level at all times.
“They kind of knew what they were going into this last summer when I worked with them at summer camps. They look good so far. They’re really, really willing to learn and they are putting a lot of effort in.”
Junior Andrea Jorgenson, the only returning starter, is expected to lead the Wildcats on both ends of the court along with experienced classmate Courtney Bubach.
“(Jorgenson) brings that mental toughness, defensively and offensively and she seems like she never gets tired,” Barnes said. “It’s nice to have one of those kids on your team that’s relentless on defense and offense and she really does want to win.”
Jorgenson led the team’s returning players with averages of 8.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.
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