LANGDON – Nolan Hovland threw down a thunderous dunk in the opening minutes of the Rugby High School boys basketball season.
Hovland, the reigning Class B high jump champion, exploded off two feet and slammed the ball with both hands for his first career dunk. The Panthers followed suit and slammed the Langdon Area-Munich Cardinals en route to a 84-31 rout.
No. 1 RHS, at least for half of the night, validated its top ranking following a one-loss season, which ended in a heartbreaking overtime of the Class B state championship.
“It was pretty fun,” Hovland said of his rim-rattling play. “I was just kind of thinking get it first and hopefully not miss it and take off from too far and embarrass myself.”
The Panthers raced away with a 13-1 run over the final 2 minutes, 18 seconds of the second quarter. Senior guard Tanner Bernhardt drilled his first 3-pointer to open the run, which hit 40-1 before a pair of Cardinal free throws early in the fourth quarter.
“In the locker room, we were tired of how we were playing,” RHS senior Brad Heidlebaugh said. “We gave up too many fouls and it was time to turn on the switch. After that we just kept going.”
Langdon only made four field goals, all coming before a nearly 10-minute scoring drought, including a scoreless third quarter.
Hovland made a strong early case to be a regular starter with 11 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. A second dunk attempt rattled home in third quarter.
“Rugby’s a good quality team,” LA-M coach Kyle Knutson said. “They move the ball and they just don’t quit. I think they just started playing really good and figured out what we do and shut us down.”
First-team all-state returnee Heidlebaugh led all scorers with 19 points, despite picking up his fifth foul with about a minute left in the third quarter. Fellow senior forward Zach Miller joined Heidlebaugh, fouling out with six minutes remaining in the game.
Langdon had plenty of opportunities at the free-throw line, converting 23 of 34. Part of the RHS aggressiveness was welcomed as 11 Cardinal turnovers were forced in the third quarter alone. Langdon finished with 23 turnovers.
“We got a little lazy toward the end of the first half,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “We gave up lanes and did things we probably expect to do in the first game, but we can tighten up.”
Bernhardt finished with 17 points, and Miller joined junior Hunter Hager and sophomore Anders Johnson with 8 points each. Langdon junior Brady Samuelson led the Cardinals with 8 points.
The Panthers opened the CNDC tournament against New Rockford-Sheyenne on Thursday. The tournament concludes today with the championship at 6 p.m. The winner of the RHS and NR-S game played the winner of TGU and Harvey-Wells County game in a semifinal Friday.
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