There was no doubt who was going to be crowned District 11 champions after the first half of title round. The Rugby Panthers (19-2) dominated the Drake-Anamoose Raiders (10-12) on both sides of the court, holding a commanding 40-5 score before heading into the locker rooms.
“It was awesome to see their hard work pay off,” Rugby head coach and 2015 District 11 Coach of the Year Mike Santjer said. “It’s great. The feeling never gets old.”
The Panthers were led by senior team workhorse Brad Heidlebaugh who had 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and, to cap it off, a pair of two-handed slams. Plus, a couple blocked shots and all of the rebounds came on the defensive side of the court. All of this happened in under 20 minutes.
“I just played my game,” he said. “Defense led to our offense taking off. We were clicking on all cylinders.”
Heidlebaugh also finished off the season with All-District honors, along with other senior teammates Zach Miller, Tanner Bernhardt, and Nolan Hovland. He also claimed the title of District 11 Senior Athlete of the year.
“It means a lot,” he added. “It means the coaches respect your game. It’s an honor being in the list with all those others.”
Drake-Anamoose spent the much of the second half of the game playing catch-up with the bench, trying to counteract Rugby’s two offensive runs. But the two were spaced out by long scoring droughts for both teams. The tough Panthers’ defense didn’t allow more than five points until all of the starters had been subbed out with 3:28 left in the third. Drake-Anamoose doubled their score after that point and played a back and forth game with the bench, putting their total up to 22. Lee Reinowski, the Raider’s leading scorer had half of the team’s points with 11. But while his offensive stat line left much to be desired, the senior came away with a pair of defensive rebounds and a pair of steals that led to points.
“We knew we’d have a hard time matching up,” Raiders’ head coach Doug Martin said. “We couldn’t get our shots off and we need to handle ball pressure.”
Drake-Anamoose entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed after a struggling season. They lost four core starters to injuries and had a 1-5 district record. But there was potential to leave a better mark. Before the players were injured, Martin said, the Raiders were 6-1. But the lone loss was a whopping 79-40 to the 2015 district champions in the CNDC tourney in Harvey.
Both Rugby and Drake-Anamoose will advance to the Region 6 tournament at the Minot State Dome next week. Drake-Anamoose enters as the No. 2 team from District 11 and plays the No. 3 team from District 12, Our Redeemer’s Christian School on Monday. The Panthers, as the No. 1 team from District 11 will play No. 4 Surrey the same day.
Rugby flashes past Sawyer, 78-44
After tipoff, the District 11 Tournament was underway for every team involved. The No.1 seeded Rugby Panthers (18-2) had a first-round bye for the quarterfinals. The Panthers made a statement after a 78-44 win against the Sawyer Flashes (10-10) in a semifinal matchup.
“They worked hard,” Rugby head coach Mike Santjer said. “We did a better job handling the ball and got some easy buckets.”
The Panthers had played the Flashes earlier in the season in Sawyer. That game was a rough, tough, and fast-paced game where the 93-65 score didn’t reflect what happened. The Flashes’ full court press made the game more difficult for the usually dominant Panthers.
“We knew what we were getting into (this game),” Santjer said. “We were preparing for the press.”
The Panthers shared the ball well, and three players had over 15 points. Senior Tanner Bernhardt led the bunch with 17, and was followed by Zach Miller and Brad Heidlebaugh, who each had 16. Heidlebaugh, who has been one the team’s star players, had a more team focused night, with 6 assists, 4 steals, and 17 rebounds.
The Flashes were led in scoring by Colton Lund, who had 11 points. Behind him, Paul Folden scored 9 and Kyle Larson scored 8. The Flashes gave away the ball 11 times while on offense, but forced 9 steals.
“No question, they worked,” Sawyer head coach George Duenas said. “We came out high, after yesterday’s win. We were keeping composure. We were trying to get a win, but they’re a good defense team. Very tough.”
Miller also slammed his first dunk in his career during the game. He posted up and jammed it in with 3:18 left in the first, before Heidlebaugh even put up a point.
“It’s tournament time and everyone has to step up,” Miller said.
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