Panthers escape Eagles’ grasp in overtime
GRAND FORKS – It took Tanner Bernhardt an extra period to finally hit his first shot of the game, but a 3-pointer to open overtime was all it took to spark Rugby.
Bernhardt was 0-for-11 from long range and scoreless before drilling a 3 from the right wing to give the No. 1 seed Panthers the emotional lift he typically provides earlier in games.
Rugby (26-0) held on for a 64-58 overtime win over unseeded New Town, the Region 8 champion, in the third quarterfinal game March 6 at the Class B state tournament at the Alerus Center.
“Every shooter has his slump, I guess, but I just kept my head up and kept shooting and one finally fell in,” Bernhardt said.
The Panthers trailed for the first time all season in the fourth quarter and the Eagles presented something Rugby didn’t see all year – two massive post players. The brothers Grady – twin juniors Daryl and Elijah – stand 6-foot-3 and 6-4, respectively.
“We’ve played against the Volson brothers from Drake,” Rugby coach Mike Santjer said, “but to have two guys that are that big and that athletic inside, that rebound really hard, it’s pretty tough. We haven’t seen that and actually we haven’t seen guards with that length.”
Rugby junior forward Brad Heidlebaugh still managed to score 22 points, much of the total coming on strong takes from the block. Heidlebaugh set the school record for points in a season with 623, passing Paul Presthus’ mark of 614. He also had a game-high 13 rebounds.
Heidlebaugh’s first field goal came on a 3-pointer early in the first quarter to give the Panthers an 8-5 lead.
The Eagles (20-3) held most of the momentum in the first half and took a 15-14 lead after the first thanks to a circus shot from senior guard Joe Baker. The rangy guard heaved a buzzer-beating 3 from the opposite arc.
A key difference in the first half was 3-point shooting. The Eagles connected on 5 of 9 attempts and the Panthers made 1 of 13. Rugby senior Chris Hamilton and Bernhardt combined to shoot 0-for-10 from long range in the half.
“Normally, Tanner at least gets going a little bit earlier,” Santjer said. “He might miss a few at the beginning, but never like that. Luckily, we were able to pick up some defensive stops when we needed and get Jaedon Haman going on the inside a little bit. He had an incredible game for us.”
New Town sophomore reserve Payton White Owl hit two timely triples in the first half. The first came midway through the second quarter and broke a 22-22 tie. The second was a deep straight-on shot with six seconds left in the half. Heidlebaugh missed a long 3 at the buzzer and the Eagles took a 30-25 lead into the break.
“A lot of teams have trouble with the two bigs and we went from there and tried to take advantage of that,” New Town coach Chuck Hunter said.
Rugby took its first lead since early in the second quarter on a layup by Haman with 20 seconds left in the third. Haman finished with 16 points and junior Zach Miller had 18 for the Panthers.
After pulling down an offensive rebound, Haman hit a reverse layup to tie the game at 49-49 with 2:10 remaining in the fourth. New Town leading scorer Daryl Grady (14 points) answered with a quick shot, but fouled out with 39 seconds left. Miller converted a 1-and-1 bonus to force overtime.
New Town senior guard Wayne Fox fouled out shortly after Bernhardt’s 3-pointer and Heidlebaugh extended the overtime lead to seven on a 3-point play with 1:53 left.
“They took it to us tonight, but we grinded through it and pulled out a victory,” Heidlebaugh said.
North Star wins at buzzer
The tournament couldn’t have had a more fitting end to the first day, especially for North Star fans.
The first two quarterfinal games were decided by two points, the third went into overtime and North Star junior Christian Kvilvang capped the night with a buzzer beater to upset No. 4 seed Beulah 52-50.
“That’s just basically, ‘Throw it up and hope the ball goes in,’ ” Kvilvang said. “We drew it up to where I was trying to get around to (Alex) Weston because you know he can hit that shot, but I saw the lane open up, threw it up and prayed that it’d go in.”
Beulah (19-6) was ready for overtime after senior guard Cole Messerschmidt hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds left for a 50-50 tie.
Kvilvang went the length of the court and kissed the ball off the glass as time expired.
“We were trying to spread it out as much as we could,” North Star coach Jeff Hagler said. “This is a play we put in six years ago when we came to state. This is the first time that we’ve run it, so good thing we saved it for the right time.”
The two teams met in the 2012 championship game with Beulah coming out on top.
“Obviously, it’s nice to be on the other side of it this time,” Hagler said. “They got a great, great program. Jeremy’s a heck of a coach. They got a great program and our program isn’t too bad either. We’re both NDSU-Bottineau grads, so it’s kind of fun to lock horns with him and I think we’re even at 2-2 now.”
Beulah coach Jeremy Brandt liked how his team played the final possession, but the Miners couldn’t match the Bearcats’ length.
“We knew once it got into somebody’s hands that’s the kid that was gonna take the shot, especially with nine seconds left,” Brandt said. “We wanted pressure, but we wanted to make sure our kids stayed in front of the ball, which we did. He made a contested shot. He had a little bit of a size advantage on us in that position.”
Beulah junior Luke Blood kept the Miners in the game late. He converted a 3-point play with more than five minutes remaining to cut the deficit to 45-44. Blood converted another 3-point play with 3:32 left and the Miners trailed 50-47.
Kvilvang scored a game-high 24 points, including three 3-pointers and Messerschmidt hit six 3s, finishing with 22 points.
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