Panthers Take Second
The championship round of the CNDC tournament looked to be an up and down affair.
And it ended with Rugby getting its first loss on the season to the St. John Woodchucks, 72-53, as well as the Panthers not taking home their fifth consecutive championship title.
The Woodchucks upset the no. 7-ranked Dunseith Dragons to get to the championship round and left the tournament with a 4-0 record.
Senior forward Hunter Hager started things off for the Panthers on a 3-point play; one of which came from a trip to the free-throw line after being fouled. Woodchucks junior center Kevin Grant would respond soon after, and would help his squad get its first lead on the night.
A score from Chris Griffin helped the Panthers briefly retake the lead. Grant then took it back for the Woodchucks.
The Woodchucks’ held the lead at the end of the first half, with the Panthers just six points behind.
The Woodchucks started pulling further away in the second half, scoring 26 points in the third quarter alone. Senior guard Dalton Poitra proved to be an outside threat for the Woodchucks, scoring 12 of his 30 points on the night from outside the arc, and was 4 for 5 from the line.
“When we came out in the third quarter and Dalton hit three 3s that were really deep, that got our motors really going for us,” Woodchucks head coach Steve Poitra said.
Rugby head coach Mike Santjer said the Panthers had troubles in the second half with rebounding shots that St. John missed.
“The shots that they did miss, lots of times they got the offensive rebound and got a second attempt at it. When you give a team that’s got that good of shooters that many attempts, it’s probably not gonna work out very well for you,” Santjer said.
QUARTER AND SEMIFINALS
The Panthers won their tournament opener against the Harvey Hornets, 43-34, but it didn’t come easily.
“I thought we played okay defensively,” Hornets head coach Jon Bertsch said. “We had a few lapses, which hurt us, and, you know, you gotta make free throws to win ball games and the first two games of the year that’s kind of been tough for us. We haven’t shot well from the free throw line. I’ll give Rugby credit, they kept at it, they did some things well around the stretch, hit some big shots.”
The Hornets had a 7-point lead to start the second half, as well as an up and down third quarter. Senior forward Tyler Schmaltz’s only non-foul line shot of the game helped to put the Panthers at even footing, and senior forward Ryan Michels would make one of the Panthers’ first lead changes.
But it wouldn’t hold for long, as junior forward Trevor Schimke would make one of his two shots from the line and later shoot a 3-pointer to tie. Junior guard Steven Stutlien shot another three to take the lead.
Griffin, Michels and junior forward Anders Johnson would retake the lead for the Panthers.
“First half I was super disappointed,” Santjer said. “We didn’t work hard, we weren’t patient on the offensive side. We didn’t play to what we expected our team to play. Second half, much better job. We contested all their shots, we did everything we felt if we came out did in the first half, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation that we were.”
The next night the Panthers were able to take the lead on the Drake-Anamoose Raiders, 44-26.
Senior forward Lee Reinowski started things off for the Raiders with a shot from downtown. But junior center Trevor Longie took the lead for the Panthers.
Defensively the Panthers held the Raiders to low-scoring quarters.
“We knew which shooters they had, so we d’-ed up their shooters, we double-teamed their big man [center Cordell Volson, a 6’6″ senior] down underneath and made his life kind of tough for him,” Santjer said.
With the loss to the Woodchucks, the Panthers’ record stands at 3-1.
The Panthers will play the Beulah Miners on the Minot State University campus Tuesday.
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