Panther Boys Make Region Tourney
The Rugby Panthers made it to the Region 6 Boys Basketball Tournament, but not by way of a district title.
Rugby cruised through the first round of the tournament with a 69-13 victory over the Nedrose Cardinals. But a loss to the Sawyer Flashes in the semifinal round of the District 11 Tournament in Bottineau sent the Panthers out of contention for a title and instead to a regional qualifier matchup against the Towner-Granville-Upham Titans on Monday.
“Sawyer kicked our butt all over the floor. Give a lot of credit to those kids, they worked hard and they were gonna make it a battle and we just didn’t respond,” said Panthers head coach Mike Santjer. “We got close a few times, we got the score tied, but they kept on battling. Our kids weren’t mentally prepared for it and that’s what happened.”
On Monday the Panthers were able to take the lead with 2:44 remaining in the first quarter on the second of two buckets (on the quarter) from senior forward Ryan Michels, and held onto it for a 59-39 victory over the Titans.
Titans’ junior forward Kolter Schell opened the game with an inside, and Panthers’ senior center Hunter Hager responded just seconds later. Schell was able to get a second bucket, with Panthers senior forward Trevor Longie responding. The Titans briefly had the lead on a bucket from junior guard Cole Bethke. Michels then tied the game on the first of two buckets on the quarter.
“We knew Towner was gonna come out and play with some energy,” Santjer said. “With the success we’ve had the last couple of years every team in the district’s gonna play us as hard as they possibly can. We needed to show some intensity, handle some pressure when we needed to and we did that tonight.”
After being held to single digit scores in the first half, the Titans would soon go 6-for-9 from the free throw line and get 18 points off of field goals to make it a 24-point second half.
“We fought the defending champs as best as we could but they’re a tough group to keep track of,” Titans head coach Brian Linstrom said. “They’re a good team, they’re coached well.”
The Titans ended the season 11-12 overall and 3-5 in the district.
“Our season was never about wins and losses, it was are we going to be better at the end than when we started,” Linstrom said. “And we’re a 100 percent better team than we were when we started.”
The Panthers start regional play Monday (March 7, 4:30 p.m. at the Minot State University Dome) against the #2 seed from District 12, the Bishop Ryan Lions-who lost 50-53 to Our Redeemer’s Christian School in overtime off a half-court buzzer beater.
“The biggest thing for us is we have to bring the same kind of effort every night,” Santjer said. “The situation we got ourselves into, we’re going to have to beat three really good teams every night in order to advance and get a shot at getting back to the state tournament itself. We’re gonna have to beat 3 good teams no matter what, but we gotta bring the same amount of energy we bring when we win games. We can’t have a night off.”
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