Regular Season Ends With Loss
Dunseith Dragons head coach Eric Morin joined the consensus of coaches of teams the Rugby Panthers’ boys basketball team faced in saying defense has been an asset for the Rugby squad.
“Rugby’s a nice team, they’re long, lanky and they play great defense,” Morin said. “Defensively, they’re always one of the better teams in North Dakota. Offensively, at times they seem to struggle, so we knew at some point we were going to be able to go on a run.”
Both the Dragons and the Panthers held each other scoreless for nearly two minutes to start the first quarter, until Panthers junior forward Anders Johnson put up the first points of the game.
But it was senior guards Dakota Gunville and Landyn Keplin who allowed the Dragons to take an early lead in a 57-43 victory over the Panthers in Dunseith last week.
Senior forward Hunter Hager scored five points within the last two minutes of the first quarter, 3 of them from outside, to put the Panthers within one point of the Dragons.
Senior center Trace Azure then opened the second quarter with two buckets within 30 seconds of each other to allow the Dragons to keep the lead. For about four minutes.
“Azure is real tough to handle on the post. I thought he played as well as he could being doubled most of the time,” Morin said.
The Panthers snatched the lead off a 3-pointer from junior forward Chris Griffin. Johnson then scored eight points, four of them from the foul line.
A pair of Dragons’ 3-pointers came from Keplin and classmate Skye Davis. Gunville hit an inside shot in the final seconds to trim the Panthers’ lead to just three to end the first half.
Keplin retook the lead for the Dragons in an up-and-down third quarter, scoring from inside on an opening drive and hitting his second trey over a minute later. Johnson then tied the game up on an inside shot, with Azure taking the lead back again seconds later.
“We knew Keplin was gonna try and break us down on the defensive side, make passes and opportunities for his teammates,” Panthers head coach Mike Santjer said. “We tried to limit the amount of time he took to get to the middle of the paint, and from there we had to close in on their shooters.”
Hager tied the game up again with 3:46 remaining in the third with a jumper from the free-throw line. The Dragons untied the game on a 9-2 run starting at the 2:53 mark, with Panthers senior forward Tyler Schmaltz’s inside shot ending the quarter with the Dragons seven points ahead.
Both squads were held scoreless to start the fourth quarter until a shot from Azure came around the 6:21 mark. Hager mirrored his first quarter scoring with a second 3-pointer on the night and went 1-for-2 from the foul line in the final seconds.
“I think we worked hard. At times we didn’t defensive rebound as well as we should’ve, they had way too many second attempts at the basket. They didn’t shoot great, and when they did we were always contesting shots. We just broke down a little bit on the defensive end,” Santjer said. “I think our effort was good, our effort was way better than it was against Bishop Ryan. I think we pushed the ball better than we have most games this year. I don’t think we shot terribly bad, we just didn’t have enough possessions.”
The Panthers started District 11 tournament play Friday against the Nedrose Cardinals. District play continues today and wraps up Monday at Bottineau High School.
“We told the kids that our season’s over now, it gets wiped clean and we get to do it all over again,” Santjer said. “From now on we got to hopefully win nine straight games and we’ll be playing where we want to be at the end of the year.”
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