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Panthers face Dragons, look ahead to districts after loss

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 27, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Panthers forward Isaiah Bundy-Smith turns away from Dunseith Dragons to find a shot opportunity.

A lot had happened between the CNDC tournament in December and Feb. 19, two dates when the Dunseith Dragons faced the Rugby Panthers on the basketball court in Charlie Hanneman Gym.

And if the Panthers’ 57-61 loss to the Dragons was a disappointment in December, their 66-77 loss to Dunseith Feb. 19 was a heartbreaker.

“It’s been a long season,” Rugby Panthers Coach Mike Santjer said after the Panthers’ Feb. 19 game, their final regular game for the season.

“We played our third game of the year against Dunseith and then our last game of the year,” Santjer said, adding, “The Dragons played good. They came out defensively; they played really well offensively. They shot the ball really well. We didn’t really respond.”

The Panthers struck the first blow in the game when a two-point shot by guard Trey Welstad swooshed through the net. A layup from Dunseith’s Caleb Poitra tied the game seconds later. The Panthers and Dragons stayed on each other, but the Dragons pulled ahead, edging the Panthers 22-19 at the end of the first quarter.

The Dragons would keep their lead for the rest of the game.

Dunseith’s defenders surrounded the Panthers, closing off shot opportunities for Isaiah Bundy-Smith, who returned to play after an illness. The Panthers pushed on, scoring 13 points in the second quarter, thanks to shots by forwards Cole Slaubaugh and Erik Foster and a three-pointer by Welstad.

Panther defenders gave up scoring opportunities to Caleb Poitra and guard Ethan Morin with fouls. Caleb Poitra would score nine points in the quarter. Forward Josh Decoteau would add four points to the board and two each came from Morin and Jalen Poitra.

The Dragons had a nine point lead at halftime. Their lead grew to 60-46 at the end of the third quarter.

After allowing 19 points by the Dragons in the third quarter, the Panthers’ defense reined in the Dragons just a bit, only allowing 17 points. Meanwhile, Rugby managed to put 20 more points on the board, thanks to a three-point shot, four bonus points and two buckets by Welstad. Bundy-Smith landed a three-pointer as well. Slaubaugh made two quick layups and Walker rounded out the total with a layup of his own.

After the 66-77 game ended, Santjer noted, “I thought (the Dragons) were tougher than us tonight. They got way more offensive boards than we did. We didn’t box out and they crashed the boards.”

Santjer said the Panthers would turn their focus to districts in Bottineau Feb. 26, 27 and 29.

“We’re the number three seed and we play TGU in our first game,” Santjer said. “We just have to tighten up our effort a little bit – our effort and our toughness. I think our xes and os and our strategies defensively are there,” he added. “It’s just a matter of executing and being tough enough to do those things.”

Point totals for the Rugby Panthers were: Trey Welstad, 18; Cole Slaubaugh, 14; Isaiah Bundy-Smith, 13; Warren Walker, 13; Erik Foster, 8.

Point totals for the Dunseith Dragons were: Caleb Poitra, 33; Ethan Morin, 14; Jalen Poitra, 13; Chad Parisien, 8; Josh Decoteau, 6; Julius Grant, 3.

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