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Panthers hold seed

By Staff | Feb 6, 2015

Lori Gronvold/PCT Rugby High School senior Nolan Hovland shoots over Berthold senior Austin Lee in a 67-58 win for the Panthers on Jan. 31 at Minot Municipal Auditorium.

MINOT – In a game many expect to see repeated for the Region 6 championship, District 11 and 12 frontrunners Rugby and Berthold, respectively, faced off in an entertaining top-5 matchup at neutral Minot Municipal Auditorium.

The No. 2 Panthers held off the previously unbeaten and No. 4 Bombers 67-58 as timely free-throw shooting and a more balanced attack proved vital.

RHS senior Brad Heidlebaugh tied classmate Tanner Bernhardt, scoring 17 points despite starting the game with low blood sugar. Heidlebaugh, who has diabetes, rebounded nicely as the game went on and scored seven of his points in a crucial fourth quarter.

Berthold senior Austin Lee – who embodies the nickname Bomber as well as any BHS player – scored 30 points.

“You know (Lee’s) gonna score,” RHS coach Mike Santjer said. “We just try to make every shot he takes a tough one.”

The Bombers (14-1) led by three after the first and second quarters, but the Panthers briefly stole the lead on junior Ryan Michels’ jumper with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.

The advantage flipped twice more and RHS continued to share the ball late in the fourth quarter, which ended on an 8-2 run for RHS. Five different Panthers scored the team’s final 10 points.

“I told the kids, if you have to beat Rugby once this year, this isn’t the time to beat them,” Berthold coach Chris Brown said. “I learned a lot about my team and Rugby, so hopefully we get that chance.”

Bernhardt had a huge first half, including three 3-pointers as the Bombers also heated up. BHS hit five triples in the first half.

“I just always have to keep shooting,” Bernhardt said, “no matter if I’m in a drought. I’ve been in a little bit of a slump this year.”

Bernhardt shared defensive duties on Lee with senior Nolan Hovland. Almost every time Lee hit a big shot, the Panthers had an answer. Heidlebaugh a returning first-team all-state player said it’s always “amazing” playing against Lee.

“I’m pretty good friends with Austin,” Heidlebaugh said. “He’s one of the best players in the state, if not the best.”

The game was one of many well-spaced out “gut checks,” as Santjer described it. The team has played ranked Beulah and North Star and goes to No. 1 Four Winds-Minnewaukan on Tuesday.

“It’ll be good because it wouldn’t surprise me if we see (Berthold) again,” Santjer said. “

The Panthers also beat TGU on Jan. 30 by a score of 75-38 with Heidlebaugh scoring 19, Bernhardt 14 and junior Hunter Hager 10. RHS took care of Velva 59-24 on Tuesday to move to 5-0 in District 11 play. The boys hosted Drake-Anamoose on Friday.

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