Rugby tops Bombers
MINOT – Opposing coaches face the same dilemma when preparing to defend the Rugby High School boys basketball team: Which player do you key in on?
No. 10 Berthold tried to take away Brad Heidlebaugh and the Bombers did a decent job, but trying to focus on any one or two Panthers doesn’t work.
Four players in double figures led the Panthers (24-0) to a 64-50 win over Berthold in a Region 6 tournament semifinal on Tuesday at the Minot State University Dome.
The latest catalyst was senior guard Jaedon Haman, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter. Known more for his defense, Haman is typically the fifth starter of concern for opposing defenders.
“We knew if they were gonna leave anybody open, it was gonna be him,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “He kind of had to take it a little bit personal and make some shots, and he did. He came through great tonight.”
Said Haman: “I just came out and I was feeling it coming off the hand well in warmups and kept shooting.”
RHS advanced to play Des Lacs-Burlington for the championship Thursday. RHS won the regular season meeting by 24 points. DL-B beat Our Redeemer’s Christian School 73-63 in the other semifinal.
Berthold (20-4) went on an 11-2 run to close the first half with a 32-32 tie. Haman’s huge first quarter gave RHS some cushion, but the Bombers pushed the pace when Heidlebaugh picked up his second foul with two minutes left in the first. Heidlebaugh only attempted four shots in the half and Berthold outrebounded RHS 20-13, with nine boards on offense.
“We gotta take a lot more pride in our defense than we did,” Santjer said. “We got up by 11 and almost settled and thought, ‘You know, we’re good. We’re gonna ride this out for the rest of the game.’ We knew they were gonna go on a run because they’re too good of a shooting team.”
The shots stopped falling in the second half as the Bombers hit just 22 percent from the field.
“We couldn’t find the bottom of the net,” Berthold coach Chris Brown said. “We couldn’t. Their size took a toll on us. They’re a great defensive team. Hats off to them. They played great defense tonight and that’s why we had a hard time finding the bottom of the net.”
Rugby outscored Berthold 17-4 in the third quarter. Heidlebaugh was ready to run in the second half and went the length of the court for two easy buckets early. RHS junior Tanner Bernhardt hit the second of his three 3-pointers and a pair of Heidlebaugh free throws followed to push the lead to 45-34 with 3:15 left in the third.
The lead stretched to 18 in the fourth quarter before junior forward Zach Miller fouled out. Miller and Haman led the Panthers with 14, Bernhardt had 13 and Heidlebaugh finished with 12. Senior guard Chris Hamilton led the team with nine rebounds. Junior Nolan Hovland scored seven off the bench.
“Usually third quarters are our best and we just come out and get after it,” Haman said.
The Panthers expected a stiffer challenge in the championship round against the Lakers. DL-B senior forward Tanner Holte was limited offensively in the January game at RHS, but the Lakers also have capable scorers in senior guards Chris Duke and Cole Edwards.
“What worked out well that (first) game was we got it in our post and let them go at it,” Haman said. “And we hit shots when we needed to. We got good defense and held everybody down and just dug our heels in and played good as a team. That’s what we have to do Thursday.”
Holte scored 40 points against ORCS and had 29 in the second half. The inside-outside threat caught fire to break the momentum of the stingy Knights. DL-B coach Doug Wagner said his team would take a simple approach against Rugby.
“They’re a great basketball team,” Wagner said, “so we’ll have to play very well. We’re gonna play basketball. We’ll work to play at our strengths. That’s what we like to do. Does that mean we won’t make any adjustments? No.”
The impressive late-season run for TGU came to an end in a quarterfinal loss to Our Redeemer’s Christian School. ORCS won 65-47 in the nightcap of the Region 6 tournament’s opening round Monday.
It was the first region tournament win in school history for the Knights. TGU was a longshot to make the region tournament as the No. 6 seed in the District 11 tournament. The Titans upset two teams in that tournament to earn the region berth before falling to Rugby in the final.
The No. 2 seed Titans (12-11) struggled to keep their high-energy game efficient and ORCS took advantage, pulling away in the third quarter with a 15-4 run.
“We had good opportunities. We had good shot selection. They just didn’t fall for us,” TGU coach Mike Corum said. “We didn’t make our free throws either, but they fought hard and they didn’t quit and they fought ’til the end. That’s all we can ask for.”
ORCS was led by sophomore Josh VanLith, who was one of three Knights in double figures. VanLith led all scorers with 17 points, classmate John Reiten scored 12 and junior Davis Koppinger added 10 points and 14 rebounds. ORCS was 0-3 in region tournaments before Monday.
“More history in the making for us,” ORCS coach Jeremy Feller said. “It’s been a year-full of history. A lot of single-season records broken this year and total wins in the season was broken.”
ORCS (19-4) struggled to contain TGU’s shifty guards early and senior Luke Bacon posed trouble early with his 6-foot-6 frame.
“Defensively, I thought our three bigs did an excellent job guarding Bacon and making his catches be farther away from the hoop,” Feller said, “which therefore made our life easier. He didn’t get those easy catches that I thought he got earlier.”
Feller said his team also focused on limiting penetration by TGU senior Ethan Bachmeier, who had seven of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter.
“Their defense picked up and they were getting a lot of easy shots, easy buckets,” Bachmeier said, “and we just weren’t hitting in the second half.”
Bachmeier was one of three seniors for the Titans under their first-year coach. Bachmeier, Bacon and Kendal Green will graduate this spring. Bacon finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
“They started for a reason,” Corum said. “I wish them the best, too, in what they got coming up in what’s next for them. If they work as hard as they did for me then they’ll be successful.”
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