Panthers pounce on Ryan, win region opener
In order to win the school’s first state championship in 52 years the Rugby boys basketball team needs to finish the season undefeated.
The Panthers improved to 23-0 on Monday, opening the Region 6 tournament with a 65-48 win over Bishop Ryan at the Minot State University Dome.
The Lions (15-8) entered the quarterfinal game as the only team to lose to RHS by less than 10 points, but that was in a December meeting at Ryan.
The latest meeting was more indicative of how RHS has handled most teams. Ryan kept it close through the early part of the second quarter, but junior Brad Heidlebaugh and his well-rounded supporting cast took control from there.
Heidlebaugh scored 19 points and hauled in 17 rebounds in the dominant post performance.
“He’s not a guy who has an off night, really,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “He works so hard, he gets good position inside and he shoots a lot of close-range baskets.”
The outside game was clicking for the Panthers too. Bernhardt connected on four 3-pointers, and junior reserve Nolan Hovland hit a timely triple to give RHS a 53-37 lead as time expired in the third quarter.
“(Hovland) had a knee injury around Christmas and kind of worked his way back,” Santjer said. “He’s been playing really well and given us some great minutes off the bench. When he can come and do that, and as long as he is, he plays great defense as well.”
The Panthers held Ryan senior Brody Bosch in check, limiting the dangerous scorer to just 15 points – a team high. Bosch scored 26 against Rugby in the previous meeting, but wasn’t able to find the easy lanes to the hoop in the rematch.
“Offensively, we just weren’t able to get in a groove tonight,” Ryan coach Brock Teets said. “We just took shots early in the shot clock, didn’t run things through and against a team like Rugby, unless you shoot 60 percent doing those things, you’re not gonna win the game.”
Rugby created space on the scoreboard by finding five scorers in the second quarter. Ryan led by a point after the first, but RHS opened the second quarter on an 11-2 run. Hovland knocked in a long 2-pointer in the closing seconds of the half to give RHS a 30-20 lead.
RHS senior Chris Hamilton hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half and his team held a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
Rugby junior forward Zach Miller was saddled with a fourth foul midway through the fourth quarter. Heidlebaugh comfortably handled play down low despite the team having to go with more of a four-guard look.
“You have to be able to square up and work to kick out the ball to your shooters,” Heidlebaugh said, “and they hit a lot of shots down tonight in the second half.”
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