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Girls, boys leading the way in District 11

By Staff | Feb 13, 2015

Lori Gronvold/PCT Rugby High School junior Shea Heidlebaugh shoots in a win over North Star in Cando on Feb. 5.

This season, District 11 basketball – both girls and boys – has been dominated by the Rugby Panthers.

The Lady Panthers recently claimed the No. 1 seed for the District 11 tournament, while the boys have already locked up the district’s top spot with a handful of games still remaining.

Girls defensive minded

Rugby (16-3 overall, 6-0 District 11): The Panthers are the No. 1 seed in this year’s District 11 tournament. They are backed by a strong defense that only allows 39.6 points per game.

“I have been pleased with our defense this year,” Rugby coach Jen Brossart said. “Our ability to extend our defense and play the length of the floor has been nice to see.”

The biggest challengers to the Panthers in the district have been Sawyer and Velva. The Panthers swept these teams in district play, but only by a combined 12 points. The closest of these games came at Sawyer when the Panthers escaped with a 52-47 win. Rugby also looks to be the most formidable opponent to regional foe Bishop Ryan. The two teams already met on Jan. 27 with the Lions coming out on top 76-38.

The Panthers have a bye and play their first district tournament game Friday.

“It will be tough coming in Friday and playing our first game after our opponent has already played one,” Brossart said. “We could come out rusty or we could come out rested and ready.”

Velva 10-9 (5-1): The Aggies earned the No. 2 seed in District 11 by way of defeating Sawyer 48-38 on Jan. 22. The Aggies, however, have fallen on hard times as of late, losing three of their final four before District tournament time. They will take on Drake-Anamoose tonight in the first round of the District 11 tournament.

Sawyer (14-5, 4-2): The Flashes boasts the third-best District 11 position going into to tournament play. They are led by an electric offense that has scored over 70 points four times this season. They split their two meetings with Velva as both teams held serve on their home court. Their match up with the Aggies on Dec. 12 was apart of the Sawyer Invitational so it did not factor in regards to District record. Sawyer will take on Westhope-Newburg tonight in the first round of the District 11 tournament.

BOYS Eyeing deep run

Rugby (15-2, 6-0): Rugby has locked up the number one seed in District 11 with two weeks left in the regular season. Their only two losses have come at the hands of top-10 teams by one point apiece. They fell to then-No. 6 Beulah 51-50 on Dec. 27 on a neutral floor and more recently lost at No. 1 Four Winds-Minnewaukan 61-60 on Feb. 10. On the flip side, Rugby has defeated top-10 teams in No. 7 North Star and No. 3 Berthold.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves with our scheduling and I think we did a good job of that,” Rugby coach Mike Santjer said. “Our kids are getting better and I feel we are battle tested moving forward.”

The Panthers were challenged by some of the most elite in the state, but they have dominated their District. TGU and Velva, teams two and three in the standings, have lost to Rugby by 37 and 35 points respectively. The next time the Panthers will most likely be challenged will be at the regional tournament when they possibly take on Berthold and No. 9 Our Redeemer’s Christian School. Berthold has the offensive firepower, and has already shown in its Jan. 31 game, that it can hang with Rugby and ORCS has size at every position to challenge the Panthers.

“On paper ORCS and Berthold are the better teams, but you can’t overlook district opponents,” Santjer said. “District teams know you, they’ve played you, they know your tendencies so you have to be ready to battle come district tournament time.”

TGU 9-8 (4-2): The Titans have locked up the second seed in District 11. They are accustomed to playing, and winning, close games as they are 4-1 in games decided by six points or less, one of them coming over Velva. TGU seems to have hit its stride as it has won three of its last four games with the only loss coming to ORCS.

Velva 9-8 (3-3): The Aggies will be the three seed in the District 11 tournament. They have rebounded nicely from a mid-season four-game skid to win two of their past three.

This article previously ran in the Minot Daily News. John Denega covers sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.

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