Region 6 Champions
Rugby Panthers senior guard Shea Heidlebaugh hasn’t forgotten last year’s championship round of the Region 6 Girls Basketball tournament, when the team lost to the Bishop Ryan Lions.
“I woke up this morning I remember the exact words (Panthers head coach) Jen (Brossart) said to me after the region championship last year, she said ‘You remember this feeling, the feeling of when you lose,’ and I remembered it.” Heidlebaugh said last week. “We came out and I was not going to lose this time.”
The Panthers are where they want to be, the State Class B tournament in Grand Forks, but they had to defeat a familiar opponent, 37-23, to get there: the Velva Aggies.
“We played each other twice now and we know what we’re up against. We knew it was going to be a defensive battle, we knew they had some shooters that were going to knock some shots down,” Aggies head coach Chris Braaten said.
Brossart said: “We knew this was going to be a barn-burner. We knew they were gonna bring their A-game, they wanted this. It’s a great matchup, it’s great for district 11 to be in this championship, for both teams. And we knew we were just going to have to stay the course.”
The game opened with an all-Heidlebaugh first quarter for the Panthers, with her first bucket off of one of several turnovers on the night. The Aggies weren’t able to respond until the 5:18 mark, with a bucket from senior forward Shalyn Fevold. Fellow forward and junior Jonnah Lee followed suit 40 seconds later and was able to tie the game 8-8 in the final seconds off a rebound.
The Panthers then took the lead in the second quarter, with Heidlebaugh opening things on a 6-2 run. Heidlebaugh and Aggies senior forward Madison Bodine were able to sink buckets in the final seconds, but the Panthers would have a 16-12 lead at halftime.
The Panthers then held their lead, going on a 12-4 run in the third quarter. Lee and freshman Rachel Mack scored the Aggies’ only points in the final seconds.
Panthers’ junior center Breanna Thompson opened the fourth quarter by going 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. Forwards Madison Uhlenkamp and Ashley Schmaltz were able to score soon after.
“Our girls stayed the course, they played great defense, they shut Jonnah Lee down, which was one of goals. I thought they did a great job,” Brossart said.
The Aggies were able to score a combined 11 points in the second half. Lee lead in the fourth quarter, with a bucket and going 1-for-4 from the foul line.
“We had a tough time getting the ball to fall, that’s a credit to their defense,” Braaten said. “They kind of dictate the tempo and on the offensive end for us it forces you to rush your shot, do things out of the norm.”
Heidlebaugh scored the last bucket of the game with 1:06 remaining.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I can’t even describe it right now,” Heidlebaugh said on her squad going to the state tournament.
The state tournament for the Panthers began Thursday evening, as they took on the Shiloh Christian Skyhawks on the Alerus Center floor. The State Class B tournament wraps up tonight.