Girls break 4-game skid, beat Sawyer
The Rugby High School girls basketball team needed a player or two to emerge and take over games as the Panthers faltered through the first half of January.
On Tuesday, just about every girl who played took control for different stretches as the Panthers ended a four-game skid with a 69-46 win over district-foe Sawyer at Charles Hanneman Gymnasium.
Junior guard Darby Deckert scored a team-high 16 points to lead four Panthers in double figures. RHS (4-5 overall, 1-0 District 11) held a double-digit lead for most of the game and Deckert extended it to 20 for the first time with a pull-up jumper with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Whether or not it’s the same person every night doesn’t matter,” RHS coach Jen Brossart said. “Darby did a great job of taking control and I think Jacie Lovcik really stepped up, too.”
Deckert’s first points of the second half came on a 3-point play when she was fouled on a putback off her own miss. The Panthers’ next bucket came on another strong drive by Deckert going left through the lane – an assertive move that’s largely eluded RHS this season.
“I thought if I get aggressive it will help other girls get us going too,” Deckert said. “It felt good. It finally felt like stuff was coming together and we were playing as a team and not individuals.”
Sawyer didn’t make it easy as junior guard Mara Roteliuk hit four 3-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points. Roteliuk had a huge third quarter, converting three times from beyond the arc, but RHS junior Jacie Lovcik went on a tear of her own. Lovcik scored eight of her 14 in the third quarter.
“We actually executed some offenses for once, and that helped too,” Lovcik said. “We’ve tried running the plays before and nobody ever executes. They are good plays, we just don’t ever run them right. I think if we keep executing and keep the intensity going that we’ve had at practice, we’ll be a lot better off than we have in the past.”
Lovcik benefited from smooth possessions that found her open for short corner jumpers, but she also created her own opportunities with active hands on defense.
“We know what she’s capable of and so does she,” Brossart said. “We asked her to go play the post like she knows how to play the post. She got after the offensive boards and was good on defense. She’s another girl who can handle the ball and clear it out and go with it if she has to. One thing with Jacie is she’s got to come do that every night.”
Sophomore guard Shea Heidlebaugh connected on 3 of 6 attempts from long range and finished with 13 points. Junior McKenzie Johnson rounded out the RHS scorers in double figures with 10 points. Four Panthers hit 3-pointers, including sophomore reserve Ashley Schmaltz.
“I think the last few days in practice after we played Harvey, we concentrated on doing the little things right,” Brossart said. “Just really trying to execute our offense. We, basically, went back to fundamentals and they just decided they were gonna relax.”
RHS plays Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood at 1 p.m. today at the Minot State University Dome. The boys play MLS after the girls.
Harvey dominates RHS down low
Turnovers and a lack of rebounding stuck out in Brossart’s mind following a 47-38 loss to visiting Harvey-Wells County on Jan. 17.
Much of the trouble in both categories was a result of the dominant performance of H-WC 6-foot junior center Alicia Koropatnicki, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
“It’s definitely an advantage any time you’ve got a 6-footer and she’s a good ball player,” H-WC coach Fred Meland said. “Tonight, she played very physical. I’ve been trying to get her to play more physical. I thought tonight was probably one of the more physical games she played. She drew the foul on offense and she drew contact, and defensively rebounded well also.”
Koropatnicki routinely caught the ball on the right block and drop-stepped left through the lane for hook shots. The inexperience and lack of height in the post for Rugby proved no match as the tallest Hornet easily shot over the defense.
“It was one of my better games,” Koropatnicki said. “They had a really good defense. It was a lot tougher for me and I had to work a lot harder to get my position.”
A particularly rough stretch for the Panther defense came at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth when H-WC reserve guard Kara Wolfe scored eight of her team’s 10 points in the run.
“She just goes right into full court layups three times in a row and we don’t look to stop her, we don’t look to take a charge,” Brossart said. “We have good moments where we hit some shots and in the second quarter we played great. Now if we can play like that every time.”
McKenzie Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer to get the Panthers within one point at 28-27. Johnson led the Panthers with eight points and hit another 3-pointer late in the third quarter to keep the game within reach. The Hornets led by seven entering the fourth.
“We still had a chance to come back and we were still in it and (the 3-pointers) just helped our team get going and get more focused,” Johnson said. “We’re still struggling with boxing out and getting rebounds and second-chance shots.”