Panther girls looking to return to state
The Rugby High School girls basketball team is looking for another shot at the State Class B Tournament.
“These girls feel they have some unfinished business to take care of, and perhaps did not play their best basketball at the end of last season,” said Panthers Head Coach Jen Brossart. “We were young and inexperienced as a whole and they want another chance to get back to the State Class B Girls Tournament.”
To do that, Brossart said the hope is to establish an inside presence with returning All-Region player, senior Breanna Thompson as well as returning All-District junior Madison Uhlenkamp. Brossart also said the Panthers will have speed at the forward and guard positions with returners Tristin Lunde, Karsyn Hager, Anni Stier and Maria Blessum, and are looking to Whitney Gronvold to help out in the post.
The Panthers lost three players due to graduation, including an inside/outside presence in Shea Heidlebaugh, and tenacious defense from Ashley Schmaltz and Lauren Kraft.
“There is always skill and talent coming up the ranks from the younger girls and we as coaches [Brossart along with assistant coaches Jeremy Johnston and Dan Schneider] feel, this team could actually be very skilled and talented with who we have returning,” Brossart said.
Brossart said the Panthers are expected to have a tough schedule before January. Coming off the Thanksgiving break, the Panthers have a home opener against the Benson County Wildcats, who are slated to be in the top four teams in Region 4. Another threat from Region 4 is the Harvey-Wells County Wildcats.
“Harvey-Wells County boast many of their returning players from last year, so we could see them twice before Christmas,” Brossart said.
Also on the schedule are tough Region 6 matchups against the Bishop Ryan Lions currently ranked No. 2 in the region and Our Redeemer’s Christian School Knights who are projected by the Miss Hoopster North Dakota Basketball Preview to win the region.
“Our region will be one of the toughest in the state, and honestly I think any of four teams could win in it,” Brossart said. “On any given night, it could come down to the wire.”
Brossart said District 11 will be competitive as well, as the district has gone from eight teams to seven with Velva and Sawyer joining forces.
“Velva will be very solid, them co-op-ing probably made them deeper,” Brossart said, “but I feel with our athleticism it could really be a toss-up.”
Brossart also said the Towner-Granville-Upham Titans and the Westhope-Newburg Sioux will be teams to watch out for this season.
“The pieces of the puzzle are there,” Brossart said. “If we have people who emerge as leaders, this will be an exciting team to watch this winter!”