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Panthers sharpen claws with win over Bishop Ryan Lions

By Sue Sitter - | Feb 27, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Panthers guard Trey Welstad fends off Lions guard Bryson Elm, center.

The Rugby High Panthers sharpened their claws for post-season play with the first of two tough home games on their regular schedule, winning 51-44 against the Bishop Ryan Lions of Minot.

The Lions brought high energy to the Panthers from the start, scoring their first basket just after tip-off thanks to a shot by forward Conner Thompson.

Panthers forward Cole Slaubaugh fought through a pride of Lions, finding his way over and around guards to tie the score seconds later. Both teams battled for the lead, with Panthers guard Trey Welstad receiving bonus shots after a foul. Welstad scored one of two free throw attempts and sank a three-pointer. With two more buckets from Slaubaugh and one from guard Tim Mueller, the Panthers ended the quarter with a 12-9 lead.

The game stayed close throughout the first half, with each team batting the ball away from the other, charging down the court with defenders sticking to them like glue. Panthers guard Warren Walker made good on a three-point attempt and sank a two-point bucket while Slaubaugh dunked two more.

Thompson sank two buckets and drew a foul, sending two free throws through the net. Just seconds before the halftime buzzer, Lions guard Nicholas Sanders shot a two-point bucket to put the Lions just three points behind the Panthers, 21-18.

The Panthers defenders took the spotlight in the third quarter, limiting the Lions to just six points, while Walker landed another three-pointer for Rugby. Walker scored three shots at the free-throw line and Slaubaugh dunked one for good measure. More Rugby buckets came from Welstad and forward Erik Foster.

The quarter ended with a 13 point Panthers lead.

Lions defenders could do little to stop the Panthers in the fourth quarter. Rugby scored 14 points.

Determined Lion offensive players put 20 points on the board with forward Brady Feller leading the way. Thompson sank three buckets before he sank a three-pointer to narrow the Panthers’ lead to 48-40. After a timeout, the Panthers regrouped, pacing themselves to keep their lead.

When the buzzer signaled the game’s end, the Panthers had a 51-44 win.

“I told the guys right when we (started play), ‘If we want to get to where we want to get, to state, we’re probably going to have to win six of those close, grind-it-out games in a row. It’s all this is going to be,” Panthers coach Mike Santjer said after the win. “Come tournament time, if you don’t show up and play, you might get upset or things might happen. So, we want their minds right just to make sure they’re in the right focus to finish these kinds of big games.”

“It was fun and our defense was really good for three quarters. It was great. Our defense, to give up 24 points in three quarters was fantastic,” Santjer added. “The fourth quarter, everyone was tired and shots weren’t going in, but that’s going to happen.”

“I’m pretty happy with the kids,” Santjer said. “I’m really proud of them. Bishop Ryan’s a great team. They’ve had a great year and this was a good win for us.”

Next up on Feb. 19 were the Dunseith Dragons. “They actually beat us earlier in the year by three points, so a little bit of a revenge match, but they’ve had a great season and we’re playing right where we need to, so hopefully it’ll be another good game,” Santjer said before the Friday night home game.

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