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Panther girls return to state tournament

By Staff | Mar 6, 2020

Bella McCabe (left), Tesha Sobolik and Sarah Blessum fight for the ball during the championship round of the Region 6 Girls Basketball Tournament in Minot last week.

The Rugby Panthers return to the State Class B Girls Basketball Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.

And the Panthers had to get through a familiar opponent to get there, winning 46-32 over the Velva Aggies in the championship round of the Region 6 tournament last week.

The Panthers took to the floor of the Betty Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks in the first game of the day Thursday, against the No. 2-seed Grafton Spoilers. A win would put the Panthers in the semifinal round Friday night against the winner of a matchup between Shiloh Christian and No. 3-seed Trenton. A loss would force the Panthers to play the first game of the day Friday against the loser of the Trenton/Shiloh matchup.

“We got to compete,” said Panthers head coach Jen Brossart. “We can compete with these teams. We’ve been telling these girls all the time all season long to believe in themselves, no one expected them to get here and they proved everybody wrong.”

The state tournament continues today with the seventh-place game at 1 p.m.; fifth-place game at 2:45 p.m.; third-place game at 6 p.m.; and the championship at 8 p.m.

Region 6 finale

The Aggies fired the opening salvo in the battle for a state berth.

However the Panthers would avenge a District 11 tournament loss and get the berth.

Brossart said the key to the win was getting physical right away.

“They (The Aggies) got physical with us at Nedrose for the district championship, and we just didn’t want to take that again,” said Brossart.

Olivia Passa hit a three to open the championship round, putting the Aggies on the board first. The Panthers would follow with a bucket from All-Region Team member Brooke Blessum and a three-pointer from Tesha Sobolik to take a 5-3 lead.

Velva would soon tie the game up with a 2-for-2 trip to the foul line for Kaitlyn Lund, and an up/down game would soon follow with the Panthers ahead by nine (17-8) at the end of one.

The Aggies would outscore the Panthers by a razor-thin 10-9 margin in the second quarter, six of those points coming inside of two minutes left in the first half. The Panthers would be ahead by a score of 26-18 at halftime.

The second half would be just as much of a battle as the first, with the Panthers outscoring the Aggies 12-7 in the third quarter and 8-7 in the fourth.

On the stat sheets, Rugby shot 15-for-39 from the field for 38.5 percent, while Velva was 10-for-40 for 25 percent. Outside the arc, Rugby was 4-for-11 (36.4 percent) while Velva was 2-for-9. At the foul line proved another difference maker, as Rugby was dead-on for free throws (12-for-12), while Velva was 10-for-15 on the night for 66.7 percent.

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