Panthers steamroll Braves
When Brad Heidlebaugh says the Rugby High School boys basketball team approaches every game the same way he means it.
It doesn’t matter if the No. 2 Panthers are playing another ranked team or an overmatched opponent like Bottineau. The games typically start with establishing Heidlebaugh down low.
Tuesday was no different as he scored 12 of his game-high 28 points in the first quarter en route to a 89-25 rout of the Braves at Charles Hanneman Gymnasium.
“We try to treat every game the same,” Heidlebaugh said. “The same intensity, same emotion and this game we just came out on fire and hitting on all cylinders.”
Bottineau had no match for Heidlebaugh, who streaked down the court and set up on the left block each time. A simple drop step followed and he shot right over any opponent in front of him. Senior Chris Hamilton and junior Tanner Bernhardt hit a pair of early 3-pointers each and RHS led 28-6 after the first quarter.
“They’re so fundamentally sound and they work hard on every single possession,” Bottineau coach Nate Simpson said. “That’s what makes them a really, really good team. Not only do they have talent, but the effort is there and the attitude is there for all those kids. They got a really special combination of kids right now with a great work ethic.”
The Panthers improved to 15-0 overall and 5-0 in District 11. Bottineau fell to 3-13 and 0-5.
RHS was all over the floor defensively, limiting the Braves’ ability to advance beyond the 3-point line on most possessions. The BHS turnovers made for easy transition points, including a second-quarter dunk by Heidlebaugh.
Junior reserve Nolan Hovland blocked a BHS shot and Heidlebaugh raced ahead of the pack to throw down a one-handed slam, giving RHS a 47-10 lead with two minutes left in the half.
“We came out and played hard,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “We put 12 kids on the floor and every kid that came on the floor played and worked their tail off. I thought we played really good defense, actually. We played good helpside defense. So sometimes we tend not to do that for 32 minutes, but tonight was a great team effort.”
Hamilton finished with 12 points and junior forward Zach Miller scored 11 with 11 rebounds. Senior guard Jaedon Haman led the Panther with 12 assists.
Nearly every RHS player scored in the rout, with Hovland and sophomores Hunter Hager and Trevor Longie leading the reserves with six points each.
“Practicing with these guys helps bring my level up too and everyone else at the same time,” Longie said. “It gets us pumped to get ready to go out there and play and play as hard as they do to keep up that intensity.”
The Panthers hosted Drake-Anamoose in the nightcap of a girls-boys doubleheader Friday. RHS hosts TGU on Monday and No. 3 Four Winds-Minnewaukan on Tuesday.
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