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Home wins boost Panthers’ record, confidence

By Sue Sitter - | Jan 23, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Panthers forward Cole Slaubaugh jumps for the hoop in a game against the North Star Bearcats Thursday, Jan. 14.

Two wins on the Rugby Panthers’ home court boosted confidence for the team last week before they headed to Langdon to take on the Langdon-Edmore-Munich Cardinals Jan. 16.

“Each night, we’re trying to get a little bit better,” Panthers Coach Mike Santjer said of the varsity players after their first home victory against the Westhope-Newburg Sioux Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Although Sioux guard Walker Braaten sank a three-point shot to score first in the game, the Panthers quickly took control of the floor, leading 21-10 at the end of the first quarter.

The Sioux often found themselves cut off from opportunities to drive the ball into the paint area, while the Panthers moved with ease through Sioux defenses.

“Tonight it was good to see a two-three zone, so we learned where the open pass was and we did some things better,” Santjer said of the game.

Panthers forward Cole Slaubaugh showed the home crowd some slam-dunks, hanging on the rim a few times. Slaubaugh led the Panthers’ point total for the game at 21.

The game ended with a decisive 72-42 win for Rugby. The win gave Rugby a 3-0 win/loss record for games in their home District 11, a 2-0 win/loss record for District 12 games and a 5-0 record for their home Region Six.

The Panthers’ overall record as of Jan. 15 sat at eight wins and one loss.

“It’s always good to play a district team,” Santjer said of the Westhope-Newburg win. “You always want to come out ahead on those games.”

The Panthers played host in their home gym again Jan.14, this time against an aggressive North Star Bearcats basketball squad.

As with the Tuesday game, the visiting team put the first points on the board when the Bearcats’ forward Parker Simon sank a quick bucket for a 2-0 lead.

The Panthers fought back, with Slaubaugh sinking a go-ahead shot that put the Panthers at 5-4 after a 3-pointer from guard Warren Walker. From there, the Panthers kept and built on their lead.

The first quarter closed with Rugby ahead 21-14. They kept their seven-point lead by halftime, with the score at 35-28.

The Bearcats stayed on the Panthers’ tails throughout the evening.

However, the Panthers stayed confident, and Slaubaugh found a few more opportunities to make unique dunks.

Forward Isaiah Bundy-Smith stood out in scoring for the game against North Star, totaling 16 points for the evening.

The fight intensified for both teams in the third quarter. Foul totals mounted, resulting in two trips to the free-throw line for forward Erik Foster, who made four out of four bonus shots. Bearcats surrounded Bundy-Smith, who had two free-throw opportunities in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers’ lead grew slowly and steadily in the second half. The third quarter closed with Rugby at a 50-42 advantage after pulling ahead by as many as 11 points.

The last quarter of the game saw bonus shots and foul calls on both sides. Bearcats guard Dane Hagler made three of four total attempts after a two-point shot, while Panthers guard Trey Welstad made one of three extra points. Forward Brody Schneibel sank two of two free throws.

The Panthers managed to keep their lead and extend it in the fourth quarter. They finished the game with a 63-52 win.

“They’re big,” Santjer said of the Bearcats after the game. “They’re physical kids. So we had to battle a little bit. But we needed it. It was good for us,” he added.

“We moved the ball and knew where everyone was going to be and we passed the ball a little bit better. It was a good thing and another good step forward,” Santjer said.

Santjer said the next challenge awaiting Rugby would be their game in Langdon.

“They’ve got a lot of talented, athletic kids,” he said of Langdon-Edmore-Munich. “It’ll be a really good test for us to go and try to beat them in their home gym. We’re going to have to play well, but it’s a good thing. It’ll be a nice test for us in the season as we go along.”

Santjer said the game against the Cardinals would “absolutely” build confidence in the Panthers. “And it will measure us against other really teams in the state. It’ll be a good measuring tool for us.”

Scoring leaders for Rugby vs. Westhope were:

Rugby: Slaubaugh, 21 pts.; Bundy-Smith, 12 pts.; Tim Mueller (G), 10 pts.; Welstad, 7 pts.; Walker, 6 pts.; Schneibel, 6 pts.; Foster, 4 pts.; Gavin Schepp (F), 3; Lathan DeMontigny (F), 2 pts.; Kory Vetsch (G), 2 pts.

Westhope: Braaten, 14 pts; Wyatt Lemay (G), 6 pts.; Ethan Beckendahl (F), 6 pts.; Andrew Dunham (F), 5 pts.; Anthony Tabarez (G), 4 pts.; Dalton Hawkins (G), 3 pts.; Ethan Cartwright (G), 2 pts.; Morgan Lemay (F), 2 pts.

Scoring leaders for Rugby vs. North Star were:

Rugby: Bundy-Smith, 16 pts.; Slaubaugh, 14 pts.; Walker, 13 pts.; Welstad, 9 pts.; Mueller, 5 pts.; Foster, 4 pts.; Schneibel, 2 pts.

North Star: Hagler, 13 pts; Thomas Nikolaisen (G), 10 pts.; Hayden Hagler (F), 9 pts.; Parker Simon, 9 pts.; Ben Wagenman (F), 7 pts.; Karson Simon (F), 4 pts.

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