Free throws plague girls
Shea Heidlebaugh was fortunate to even return to the free-throw line with 12.6 seconds remaining in a District 11 girls basketball game against Bottineau on Tuesday.
Trailing by one point, the Rugby High School sophomore dribbled into a swarm of Stars, lost control of the ball before finding the handle and drew the visitors’ ninth foul of the second half.
Heidlebaugh, who scored a game-high 20 and made 4 of 5 free throws to that point, watched the front end of her one-and-one bonus roll around the rim and pop out. It was one of 11 missed free throws for the Panthers and a sixth miss in the fourth quarter as Bottineau held on for a 46-45 win at Charles Hanneman Gymnasium.
Heidlebaugh said the shot felt good leaving her hands.
“Then I saw it coming down and as soon as it came down I was like that’s gonna fly off somewhere,” she said. “We were 5 for 16. The one that really sticks out was my last one that I couldn’t get, but we were 5 for 16 the entire game. We’re not gonna win games going 5 for 16.”
Heidlebaugh did her part, scoring all of the team’s nine points in the first quarter and finishing 4 for 6 at the line. Bottineau (7-7 overall, 4-1 district) took the final lead on a layup by junior Stephanie Brenden with 22 seconds remaining. Brenden drove left to right through the lane, curling through the Panthers (5-7, 2-1) for the score.
“That’s the game right there and it didn’t come to the last free throw at the end,” RHS coach Jen Brossart said. “It came down to the other 10 we shot before that when the pressure’s not there. It is exactly what it is – it’s a free throw. If you can’t step up to the line and make free throws, you’re not gonna win ball games. It doesn’t matter what kind of game you’re in.”
The game proved an exciting one as RHS junior Darby Deckert woke up in the second half and hit four 3-pointers to help gnaw away at a deficit that reached eight early in the fourth quarter. Her first triple came with five minutes remaining and cut the Bottineau lead to 38-33. Barely more than a minute later, she hit another to make it 38-37. Heidlebaugh tied the score for the first time since the first quarter with a 3-point play. She pumped her fist as the short shot dropped and calmly hit the free throw to notch the game at 42-42.
“She plays so good down low and you don’t want to overcommit on her,” BHS coach Joe Bender said, “but when you do they put it outside on the top on you and hit those 3s. They shoot really well here.”
Deckert’s final 3 was the biggest. She drained a deep rainbow with a defender in her face to give the Panthers their first lead of the night at 45-44 with about 90 seconds remaining.
“I kind of had a slow first half and I told myself I have to pick it up because the team needed me, so it felt good to get some points on the board,” Deckert said.
Bottineau leading scorer Megan Saville (13 points) missed a pair of free throws in the closing moments and RHS was granted a timeout with 2.4 seconds left. Deckert’s inbound pass reached Heidlebaugh at midcourt, but Bottineau didn’t allow a shot.
“You have fantastic fans that come out and watch you play,” Brossart said. “A team’s gotta find a way to start the game and end the game. We can’t just let an away team come in here and dictate the first half for us, so we gotta claw and scratch to get back in it.”
The Stars led 22-15 at the half. Deckert finished with 14 points. Brenden finished with 9 and senior Danielle McDonald had 11 for Bottineau.
RHS played the first part of a girls-boys doubleheader against visiting Drake-Anamoose on Friday and play Dunseith on the road Tuesday.