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Panthers advance to region championship

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015

Zach Miller is met at the bucket by a Surrey Mustang defender during Monday tournament play at the Minot State University Dome.

Panthers claw through semifinals, 58-37

After a rough first start where the first five possessions ended scoreless, the Rugby Panthers (21-2) pounced on the Bishop Ryan Lions (14-9) 58-37 in the semifinal matchup Tuesday at the Minot State University Dome.

“We were taking care of things early,” Bishop Ryan head coach Brock Teets said, “but as the game wore on we played in spurts. And spurts isn’t going to beat Rugby.”

The Panthers shared the ball and ended the game with four players in double digits. Seniors Tanner Bernhardt and Zach Miller had 12 points each, and they were followed by senior forward Brad Heidlebaugh, who ended the night with 11. Even the bench got some points on the board. Junior forward Ryan Michels got 10 points on the board.

“We did a nice job making an offensive run,” Rugby head coach Mike Santjer. “We took pride in what we were doing.”

The Panthers beat the Lions on the glass two, out rebounding them 36-25. On defense, the Panthers forced 10 turnovers and contested many of their shots. The Lions shot 13-40 from the field compared to the Rugby’s 22-49.

“We played hard on defense,” Santjer added. “Our defense was a great team effort.”

The Panthers and Lions had already bared the claws to each other in a rough 65-51 win for the Panthers on February 17. The Lions played the final game of their 2014-15 season against Our Redeemer’s Christian School on Thursday. The Panthers found out the fate of their season when they faced off against the Berthold Bombers later that night, results for which will be in the March 21 edition of the Pierce County Tribune.


The Rugby Panthers (20-2) made a clear statement going into the Region 6 Boys Basketball Tournament in the Minot State Dome. They made quick work of the Surrey Mustangs (14-9), with 67-30 lead when the final buzzer sounded.

“First game always takes time to adjust,” Senior Brad Heidlebaugh said of the venue. “In the first half, we didn’t have a lot of air, it’s so open. We gotta attack every time.”

Heidlebaugh had a career performance, matching his season high in points at 29. He crashed the boards and came away with nine rebounds and a two-handed slam that led the orange-and-black clad fans to erupt in cheers. Fellow senior Zach Miller put up 18 points – spreading them out with at least four per quarter – and pulled down 13 rebounds.

The Mustangs were held victim to what many teams this year found no answer for: the Panther defense. The Mustangs didn’t even hit 20 points until the end of the third quarter. Riley Zbasnik and Noah Knipp led mustangs in scoring, but only managed eight points each. Knipp sneaked in all of his points with a few jump shots, but was held scoreless in the third quarter.

“I couldn’t get points on the board,” Knipp said. “Their defense is the reason they’re a top-ranked team in the state.”

After the first quarter score of 17-8, the Panthers exploded, doubling their score by halftime. Things looked even worse for tiny Surrey team in the third quarter, as the Panthers put up a 23-point lead before the break. And even after the bench came in for the Panthers, the Mustangs were held to only three points in the fourth, with the Panthers continuing to put up points. Rugby had a 37-point lead by the game’s end with a final score of 67-30.

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