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Lady Panthers continue streak with win against Sky Hawks

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 6, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Mykell Heidlebaugh (center) gets ready to take a bonus shot against the Shiloh High School Sky Hawks Saturday, Jan. 30 at Charlie Hanneman Gym.

Although a three-game winning streak topped with a victory over an opponent who defeated teams such as Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich would give Rugby High’s Lady Panthers reason enough to feel confident, Coach Jennifer Brossart says the boost they needed came earlier than their 50-41 win over Shiloh Christian’s Lady Sky Hawks.

“I really think the turning point was Carrington,” Brossart said, referring to a 38-46 loss to North Dakota’s number ten ranked Carrington Cardinals.

“That’s a very good, solid basketball team,” Brossart said of Carrington. “And had we made the baskets – we had every shot we could possibly ask for – and they just didn’t fall. But our defense was there; our positioning was there. So, even though we didn’t win that game against Carrington, I think that was the turning point where these girls said, ‘We can do this.'”

The Panthers faced more Cardinals Jan. 25 when they traveled to Nedrose High School. “Obviously, with Nedrose, we played really well,” Brossart said. “We had girls in that needed some extra minutes.” The Panthers won handily over Nedrose 61-27.

“Then with Velva, just a very good effort. we had Gabi Sullivan step up big in the second half; Bella McCabe’s playing really solid for us right now; Kendyl Hager hits a nice shot down there at the end, and Mykell Heidlebaugh is making some easy shots,” Brossart said, adding, “The thing for (Heidlebaugh) is she’s got to weigh the course offensively. But she made free throws eight for eight; big time on the boards, boxing people out defensively and those points will come for her.”

The Panthers topped Velva 40-34 in the Aggies’ home gym Jan. 28.

The Velva win earned Rugby first place in District 11 and a number one seed for district playoffs.

The Panthers took their momentum from the away game home to the Lady Sky Hawks, who traveled with their boys’ basketball team from Bismarck for a double-header in Rugby’s Charlie Hanneman Gym Jan. 30.

A few of the Sky Hawks towered over Rugby players, muscling their way into the shooting lane in the game’s first quarter. The Panthers responded, quick on their feet, keeping up with Shiloh Christian but falling short by one point by the start of the second quarter with a 9-10 deficit. Panther guard Sarah Blessum followed guard Anna Johnson’s first quarter three pointer with one of her own and sank another bucket inside the paint a short time later. Forward Bella McCabe landed another 3 point shot and made good on one bonus shot, while guard Tesha Sobolik sank a rebound for two points. Sky Hawk forward/guards Aliya Schock and Grace Kelly each sank a distance shot for three points, while forward/guard Jacie Hall sank a two-point bucket and made good on one free-throw shot from a Panther foul.

The first half ended with a 20-20 tie.

With confidence buoyed, the Panthers charged onto their home court for the third quarter, scoring 15 more points thanks to two more three-point buckets by Blessum, another by forward Kendyl Hager and a score inside the paint by McCabe. Hager and forward Heidlebaugh each had trips to the free throw line from fouls by Sky Hawks, each making good on their two bonus points.

The Sky Hawks answered with just 10 points for the quarter, and the Panthers led 35-29 heading into the game’s final eight minutes.

Shiloh Christian upped their aggression as the game wound down.

Fouls by the Sky Hawks brought Panthers to the free throw line a total of seven times.

Blessum made five of six point attempts from the line. Heidlebaugh scored six of six bonus points and Sobolik made two of her two attempts.

Hager sank a bucket inside the lane, adding to a total of 15 Panther points in the fourth quarter.

Kelly saw increased pressure from the Panthers, and her two trips to the free throw line netted three of four buckets.

Sky Hawk Kennady Walth sank a shot inside the paint. Forward/guards Dedra Wood and Hannah Westin also scored rebounds for a total of six points between them. Shiloh Christian saw 11 fourth quarter points scored.

Rugby players leaped for joy when the final buzzer signaled another win.

“It was a great win; it was a great home win in front of a packed house as far as we’ll ever play in this year,” Brossart said after the game. “And I told the girls, ‘We’ve just got to go in and enjoy it. Enjoy this crowd.’ We haven’t had (a crowd) in forever. We might not see one again for the rest of the year. So, I told them to enjoy it and they fed off of it.”

“They have the number one seed (in districts),” Brossart added. “We’ve got our districts at home. This was nice to get a home win. We haven’t played well at home in the past. This was a good, solid home win for us.”

“We’ve got to come back and play a really good team on Monday, DLB,” Brossart said of a Feb. 1 home game against the Lakers.

“But,” she added, “Overall, just how the team’s coming together, trusting each other and handling adversity, they’re coming along just fine.”

Top scorers for the Panthers were: Blessum, 18 points; McCabe, 9 pts.; Heidlebaugh, 8 pts.; Sobolik, 4 pts.; Johnson, 3 pts.

Top scorers for the Sky Hawks were: Hall, 12 points; Kelly, 11 pts.; Wood, 6 pts.; Westin, 4 pts.; Schock, 3 pts.; Walth, 2 pts.

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