Scorching shooter’s touch
HARVEY – Opposing teams have enough to worry about if Brad Heidlebaugh is on the block. The 6-foot-4 Rugby High School senior forward is surrounded by plenty of strong shooters and had little reason to even be near the perimeter during last year’s 27-1 run, when he averaged fewer than one 3-pointer per game.
Apparently, this isn’t just last year’s Brad Heidlebaugh. The Mr. Basketball favorite out of Class B connected on six 3-pointers as part of a game-high 24 points en route to a 79-40 win over Drake-Anamoose for the CNDC Tournament title Dec. 20.
The Panthers hit 15 3-pointers in the game, which marked their fourth consecutive CNDC championship.
So what does a first-team all-state big man do to expand his game beyond the arc?
“Shoot, shoot, shoot,” Heidlebaugh said of his offseason focus. “I came in and hit those (first) two shots and I saw they backed off me. If the ball’s still going in, I’m going to keep shooting.”
RHS improved to 4-0 with an average winning margin of 36 points. The Raiders dropped to 3-1.
“We knew that he was working on that,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said, “but if I had my choice I”d like him inside first and outside second, but if he can shoot like that.”
RHS senior guard Tanner Bernhardt hit back-to-back 3s midway through the first quarter and Heidlebaugh nailed his first soon after. It was the start of a 29-4 run, which ended with a pair of Heidlebaugh bombs. He hit four in a 2-minute, 37-second span of the second quarter.
“We didn’t want (Heidlebaugh) to get inside,” D-A coach Doug Martin said, “but it wasn’t just Heidlebaugh. They were all knocking them down.”
Bernhardt finished with four 3s, juniors Ryan Michels and Hunter Allickson each hit a pair and sophomore Anders Johnson had one.
“I still think we shoot too many 3-pointers, but fortunately they were falling,” Santjer said. “We played pretty good the last two nights. Everybody who stepped on the floor worked hard.”
Heidlebaugh finished with a game-high 10 rebounds, matching the total of D-A junior Cordell Volson, who also led the Raiders with 14 points.
The Panthers opened the tournament with a 77-51 win over New Rockford-Sheyenne. RHS beat Harvey-Wells County 72-46 in the semifinal.
Senior forward Nolan Hovland’s status was unclear after the game. He suffered a shoulder injury early in the game and didn’t return.
RHS is struggling to stay out of foul trouble despite dominating on the scoreboard. Heidlebaugh has fouled out twice and other starters have joined him or come close.
“I think we’re just more aggressive on defense,” Santjer said. “If both teams are playing that aggressive you don’t see the fouls as much.”
The entire roster played in the championship game with only three of the 12 not scoring, including Hovland who left early. Michels scored 13 off the bench in an impressive display of athleticism. The rangy junior had three blocked shots and made long leaps for rebounds and layups.
“I’m fine coming off the bench,” Michels said. “I feel like I can play a lot of minutes and I feel I can contribute, but we’re just trying to win games.”
The Panthers play against Beulah at Minot State University at 7 p.m. tonight. The team returns to its home court against Harvey-Wells County on Jan. 5.
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