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Win at Hornets’ Nest starts off season for Lady Panthers

By Sue Sitter - | Dec 26, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Panthers forward Kendyl Hager looks for a way around Hornets guard MacKenna Arnold against the HWC at the Hornets’ Nest Dec. 15.

After a wobbly start to their first game of the season, Rugby High’s Lady Panthers landed on their feet to win against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets at the Hornets’ Nest Dec. 15.

With power players Brooke Blessum and Riley Grove supporting their team from the sidelines this season, team members moved into new roles with more time on the court.

“We had some different rotations we were looking at,” said Panthers Head Coach Jennifer Brossart. “It’s going to take awhile for these girls to get used to playing with a different rotation than they had in the past.”

The Hornets swarmed onto their home court ready to take charge of the game before the opening buzzer, and through the first quarter, it seemed they would do just that.

Hornets center Maggie Raue and forward Makenna Vollmer kept the ball on HWC’s side of the court, with Raue landing three baskets and Vollmer scoring a three-pointer. Hornets Autumn Sieg and MacKenna Arnold rounded out the offensive push with two points each.

The Panthers answered with a three pointer from guard Joran Jundt and two points each from forwards Mykell Heidlebaugh and Joey Wolf. The Panthers trailed the Hornets all quarter, each struggle for the goal seeming to result in team or personal fouls. The quarter ended with a 13-7 Hornets lead.

The contest’s second quarter saw Rugby shore up its defenses and add aggression, avoiding more foul trouble and penetrating its goal area. Heidlebaugh made good on a shot from inside the paint, as did guards Sarah Blessum and Tesha Sobolik and forward Kendyl Hager. Blessum and Hager each landed three-point shots.

The Panthers’ aggression left the Hornets behind, struggling to keep possession of the ball and seeing some foul trouble of their own.

The first half ended with a 21-17 advantage for the Panthers, who would expand their lead for the rest of the game.

Heidlebaugh, Sobolik and Hager saw three-pointers in the third quarter and scored six points from inside the paint. The Panthers increased their lead to 36-25 by the start of the fourth quarter.

Although both Panthers and Hornets drew fouls in the first three quarters of the game, all free-throw shots bounced away from the bucket.

Raue broke the ice with two successful HWC free throws in the fourth quarter. As the aggression intensified on both sides, more opportunities came up for the one-point shots.

Blessum tumbled to the floor to fend off Hornet steal attempts, then made three free throws. Heidlebaugh, Hager, Panthers guard Anna Johnson and center Gabi Sullivan also made one-point shots.

More three pointers from Hager and Heidlebaugh added to baskets by Blessum and Johnson for the Panthers.

The Hornets struggled to keep up, scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers maintained their double-digit lead and ended the game with a 57-43 win.

“Harvey’s a very good basketball team,” Brossart said after the game. “That team’s going to do some damage later in the season.

“The last three quarters, I thought we played a very good game of basketball,” Brossart added. “It was their first game; you’re going to see a little bit more falls, but all in all, I was very happy with some of the shooting that we had done.

“We got a lot of girls in; we got all of them in, in fact, in a close, tight game,” Brossart continued. So, it was good to see. If we can go deep on our bench, we’ll be all right.

“This was good basketball for us at the beginning of the season, believe it or not. We did a lot of good things right. There are a lot of things we can work on,” Brossart noted.

“JV had a heck of a game to start off with,” Brossart added, referring to a 50-23 Panthers JV win that started the evening off. “So, there are lot of positive things we’re going to work on in the next few days in practice.

“We’ve got a lot of good competition coming up,” Brossart said of a Dec. 19 game against Glenburn and a Dec. 22 game against MLS. “I was very happy with this game against a very good Harvey Hornets team.”

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