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Region champs again!

By Staff | Mar 11, 2014

Lori Gronvold/PCT Rugby High School junior Tanner Bernhardt embraces coach Mike Santjer following the Panthers' 76-65 win over Des Lacs-Burlington for the Region 6 championship Feb. 27 at the Minot State University Dome.

MINOT – Tanner Bernhardt hit six 3-pointers and scored 16 of his 22 points in the third quarter to lift No. 1 Rugby to a second straight Region 6 championship.

The Panthers rallied from a 7-point halftime deficit for a 76-65 win over No. 7 Des Lacs-Burlington on Feb. 27 at the Minot State University Dome.

“I’m feeling great,” Bernhardt said. “I’m not gonna be able to shoot like that every night, but it feels great to do it in the Region 6 championship. It feels awesome.”

He doesn’t need to shoot like that every night when junior forward Brad Heidlebaugh scores a game-high 27 points. But Bernhardt found his groove at the best time imaginable. DL-B owned the second quarter and went on an 11-0 run early in the frame, building their first lead of the evening to 29-21 on a 3-pointer from senior guard Chris Duke. His first from deep followed consecutive 3-pointers from classmate Tanner Holte.

“We started hitting some shots and got a lead,” DL-B coach Doug Wagner said. “We had two lulls, the first six minutes of the game and the first six minutes of the (third) quarter.”

Rugby opened the second half on a 10-0 run, capped by back-to-back 3s from Bernhardt. The first tied the game at 36-36. The Panthers (25-0) would penetrate and kick to Bernhardt in the left corner and the Lakers’ zone defense couldn’t keep up.

“We knew that if we could get some dribble penetration on those top two guys, just like in any 1-3-1 (zone), the corner should be open,” Santjer said. “He’s been pretty consistent from there all year, so it worked out great.”

Rugby went up 14 in the third quarter, but DL-B cut its deficit to 62-58 when senior Mitch Medalen went on a tear with 10 points early in the fourth. Heidlebaugh, who scored his 1,000th point on the game’s opening bucket, converted a 3-point play on a coast-to-coast run with 1:42 remaining to make it 70-60. Heidlebaugh pumped his fists and flexed as momentum was squarely back in the Panthers’ favor.

“It couldn’t get any better unless it was a state title and 2,000 points,” Heidlebaugh joked, “but you just gotta be happy now and live in the moment. What a great feeling it is right now.”

The No.1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Panthers opened the state tournament Thursday with a quarterfinal matchup against Region 8 champion New Town (20-2) at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. The Eagles beat Watford City 76-52 to advance to state. The winner went on to meet the winner of Region 5 champ and No. 4 seed Beulah (19-5) vs. Region 4 champion and unseeded North Star (18-7) on Friday. The state championship is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight.

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