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Panthers advance to Region championship

By Staff | Feb 22, 2019

Lori Gronvold for the Tribune Rugby’s Anni Stier struggles with MLS defenders for the ball Tuesday in Minot.

The Lady Panthers traveled to the Minot Municipal Auditorium this week for the Region 6 Class B Girls’ Regional Tournament, and they were ready to fight.

Their first skirmish took place Monday when Rugby faced Bishop Ryan’s Lions.

Both teams clawed for the lead in the first half, with the Panthers ahead of the Lady Lions by just four points as the second quarter ended.

Rugby’s girls not only fought off the Ryan defense as the 2nd half began; they seemed to fight against the basket, as two and three-point attempts ricocheted off the rim.

Meanwhile, the Lady Lions made good on several 3-point attempts, with 6 3-pointers for 13 attempts.

The Panthers’ senior team members sprang to action in the second half, taking control of the ball, and completing more field goal attempts.

By the time the 4th quarter ended, the Lady Panthers had stretched their lead to a comfortable 12 points, and Rugby moved on to face another opponent with a 50-38 win.

RHS Head Coach Jennifer Brossart told the Tribune Bishop Ryan’s tenacity didn’t surprise her.

“They brought their A game tonight,” Brossart said of the Lady Lions.

“What did they shoot for 3 pointers? 6. Exactly what I thought. 6 for 13; we were 0 for 12. We couldn’t make a shot. Whether or not that makes a difference they have three games in this tournament, who knows?”

“We got it out, and that’s what it takes,” Brossart continued. “We got some free throws, we got some defensive stops.”

Brossart said the Lady Panthers “ran out a little bit at the end; I think they lost their legs a little bit, which is what they’re gonna do, but overall, I was happy with the effort.”

Tuesday the Lady Panthers returned to face Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood’s Lady Mavericks, an adversary they’d defeated handily before Christmas.

This time, the Mavericks wouldn’t bend so quickly. In fact, MLS seemed bound for the playoffs as the game began, as they jumped out ahead with 6 unanswered points. MLS kept their advantage throughout the 1st half, leading and jumping ahead of ties with Rugby. The Mavericks ended the 1st half with a 19-15 lead.

Both teams brought plenty of boosters to the game; high schoolers sat close to each team’s home court, motivating their players, and doing their best to distract their rivals.

When Rugby took the court in the 3rd quarter, Panther boosters let out a deafening roar.

Perhaps the boosters spurred the Panthers on, or a halftime pep talk restored the team’s confidence, but the squad took charge of the court in the game’s 3rd quarter and didn’t let go.

Stier led the Panther charge, scoring 2 points as the 2nd half opened. MLS’ Janie Savekoul responded, sinking a 3 pointer.

However, the Panthers came back strong, unleashing a volley of 3-point shots from Stier, Hager, and Maria Blessum.

When the 3rd quarter ended, the Panthers led by 19 points, 23-42.

Rugby stayed the course in the 4th quarter, keeping the ball in their possession, adding 6 more points to their lead, and allowing 11 more points from the Mavericks. The Panthers advanced with a 48-34 final score to Thursday’s playoffs, where they would face Velva’s Aggies.

“We’re 1 and 1 with Velva, they beat us in districts and we won them in the regular season, so we know what they do,” said point-leader Stier as she looked ahead to Thursday night.

Brossart offered an explanation for the Panthers’ roaring 3rd quarter recovery.

“They showed up in the second half. I said the seniors have to step up, and they did,” Brossart said.

“They’ve been working on this since they were eighth graders, and they didn’t want to see their season end tonight. They had no choice but to take it upon themselves to get the ball rolling, and the rest of them followed. Our defense played strong.”

Brossart said the Lady Panthers were ready for Thursday’s championship.

“This is what it’s all about. This is tournament time; this is what we play the game for.”

Stier scored 24 points for the game, while Hager totaled 8 points, Maria Blessum scored 6 points, Sarah Blessum scored 4 points, and Brooke Blessum, Mykell Heidlebaugh and Isabella McCabe each scored 2 points. The Lady Panthers completed 2 of 4 free throw attempts.

MLS’ Leah Feland scored 11 game points, Kylie Abernathy scored 7, Allison Undlin scored 6, Janie Savekoul scored 5, Madison Moberg scored 3, and Lauren Steeves scored 2 points. The Lady Mavericks completed 7 of 9 free throw attempts.

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