RHS toughs it out at Sawyer
SAWYER – From the start, the game was a rough, fast-paced affair Monday. Forty-eight total fouls were called and the Panthers needed a couple quarters to take over.
“We played too hurried in the first quarter,” Rugby High School coach Mike Santjer said. “We had no discipline and didn’t find the open man.”
Sawyer played a full-court press defense for most of the District 11 game. The Flashes (5-4 overall, 1-1 district) contested many of the Panthers’ shots and didn’t allow them to connect on passes. The Flashes took advantage of the dazed Panthers (9-1, 3-0) and tied them at the end of the first quarter at 19.
“The closest game to this was the Beulah game,” Santjer said, “and we didn’t handle it well. We need to get better at handling pressing teams.”
During the second quarter, the Flashes pulled ahead, leading the Panthers 29-23. But the Panthers bounced back late in the quarter and scored 24 points to pull ahead 43-39 at halftime.
“We played the first half pretty well,” Sawyer coach George Duenas said. “Tempo of the game and the emotion helped us out. It was a fast game.”
After the Panthers came out of the locker room, they took control of the game and shut down Sawyer’s offense. RHS allowed fewer trips to the line for the Flashes and completed more passes. Rugby scored 26 points in the third, led by senior Brad Heidlebaugh in the post with 14.
“We had to slow the press down,” senior guard Tanner Bernhardt said. “We had to play our game and not anyone else’s.”
The fourth quarter saw the Panthers expand their 20-point lead.
Senior Colton Lund led the flashes with 23 points. Senior Paul Folden had 17 points and Kyle Larson had 15. The Panthers were led by Heidlebaugh’s 26. Bernhardt followed with 18. Junior Trevor Longie put up 14 points. However, the Panthers shot 9 of 30 from the line.
“I slowed down and played better ball,” Bernhardt said. “I just capitalized on easy shots.”
For Sawyer, Lund and junior Joshua Ulmer fouled out late in the fourth quarter. While no Panther fouled out, Eric Hooker, Nolan Hovland, Ryan Michaels and Longie each had four. Rugby had 26 personal fouls and Sawyer had 22.
Duenas credited a loud, but sparse, home crowd and the underdog factor for the calls.
“I think they just got caught up in the emotion of the game,” Duenas said. “When you have a top-ranked team like Rugby come in to a small school like us, sometimes refs can’t always check emotion at the door.”
Santjer declined comment on the officiating.
Panthers Stop Late Lakers Rally; 66-46
BURLINGTON – The stands were packed by Laker and Panther fans alike in the Burlington Elementary School gym on Jan. 16. But only one group would leave happy with the outcome. For the home team, knocking off then-No. 3 Rugby wasn’t to be.
Des Lacs-Burlington was held to eight points in the first half and Rugby moved down the lanes with ease on offense. RHS led 31-8 at half en route to a 66-46 win.
“First half, we played really good defense and shared the ball,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “We had a lot of momentum from last night’s [win against North Star]. We felt really good going into the game.”
After halftime, the Lakers exploded on offense. They scored nine points in the first three minutes, topping their entire effort from the first half. Throughout the second half, the home team scored regularly. The Panthers’ offense kept answering to keep the game out of reach for the Lakers.
“We defended well,” DL-B coach Doug Wagner said, “but the name of the game is making baskets. Our first half really pulled us behind.”
DL-B also struggled to hold onto the ball. They had 10 turnovers in the first half, giving RHS more opportunities to score. But another factor helped DL-B come back: fouls.
“We didn’t adapt to the refs,” Santjer said. “We still tried to play incredibly physical ball, after they called a bunch of fouls on us.”
Every Panther who played had at least one foul. Junior forward Ryan Michaels had four. Senior guards Eric Hooker and Tanner Bernhardt each had three.
“We played tough defense and gotta take what the refs give,” RHS senior forward Brad Heidlebaugh said. “We have to adapt to the refs better for us to be better this year.”
Heidlebaugh led the team in scoring with 19 points, with 11 in the first half. Bernhardt followed with 13 points and junior Trevor Longie had 11.
“Our defense was a bit on and off, but we were pretty solid all around,” Longie said. “It was nice to get some experience for next year. We gotta rotate some guys in.”
Brett Schafer led DL-B with 20 points.
The Panthers pulled off the win without one of their star players, senior forward Zach Miller, who had his appendix removed.
“It was tough,” Miller said. “Always hard having to watch your team without you. Hoping for only two more weeks. That’s when I hope to start running around again.”
This isn’t the first time the injury-prone Miller has sat on the sidelines. During his sophomore year, he tore his ACL and had to sit the season and most of his junior year of football. He suffered a minor foot injury and was hobbled in football as a senior.
“It’s a different view from the bench,” he said. “You start to pick things out, like a coach. Helps with learning the game.”
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