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Panther girls return to state tourney
March 6, 2018

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When it comes to meetings this year between the Velva Aggies and the Rugby Panther girls basketball teams, the third time's the charm is not a cliche.

Especially with both a Region 6 title and a trip to the State Class B tournament up for grabs.

Rugby defeated Velva 50-33 in the regular season and 54-39 in the championship round of the District 11 tournament. To punch their ticket for the state tournament, Rugby beat Velva 53-46 in region championship play last week.

But it wasn't pretty.

Both teams were plagued by missed buckets, especially in the first half, as Velva was 8-for-21 from the field and 2-for-4 from outside. Meanwhile Rugby was shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half and wasn't able to get shots from outside to fall until the second half. The Panthers were forced to go into one of their old stand-bys.

"Defense, defense, defense," said Panthers head coach Jen Brossart. "We couldn't throw the ball in the ocean from the free-throw line, so we had to play defense."

The Panthers defense was able to take Aggies starting center Rachel Mack out of the equation that night, leaving most of the Velva squad's scoring from their guards.

The Panthers struck first with guard Anni Stier scoring off a steal. Then Aggies guard Sydney Larson gave her squad a brief lead with a make from outside. The Panthers then took the lead back and went on a 6-2 run. A last second bucket from Aggies guard Greta Florence saw the Panthers ahead by a razor thin 12-11 margin at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter saw another lead change in favor of the Aggies, as guard Hope Brewer drilled the first of her five 3-pointers on the night.

"Hope Brewer got away from us a few times. She's an excellent ball player, she knows how to get open, and she's on this weekend," Brossart said.

Another lead change for the Aggies would come around the 2:18 mark, with guard Madison Effertz going 1-for-2 from the foul line. The Panthers would have their lowest scoring output on the night that quarter with just eight, while the Aggies scored 10, putting them ahead of the Panthers by another razor thin margin: 21-20.

The third quarter saw the Panthers come out swinging, netting five points early from guard Maria Blessum and All-Region forward Tristin Lunde. The Panthers would net 16 points on the quarter and hold the Aggies to 10.

The fourth quarter saw the Aggies strike first, with Brewer hitting her fourth 3-pointer. In response, the Panthers then went on a 5-1 run with three of the five coming from a second 3-pointer on the night for All-Region guard Karsyn Hager and would see buckets just seconds apart from All-Region center Madison Uhlenkamp.

Both teams endured foul troubles later in the quarter, with the Aggies losing starting forward Kaitlyn Lund due to fouling out. The final seconds would see Stier go 3-for-4 on two trips to the charity stripe. The Aggies would see Larson go to the line for a 2-for-3 trip with just eight seconds left in regulation. Not three seconds later, Lunde would go to the line and score the Panthers' last points of the game on a 1-for-2 trip.

The Panthers started the first round of the state tournament in Minot against the Killdeer Cowboys who knocked off Bowman County in the Region 7 championship.

"We got to be ready to win basketball games. We can't be satisfied with the moment," said Brossart. "We've been there, we've done that. Two years ago we were there, we got to get over that. We've got to get ready for whoever we play. We just got to keep working at what we do best; we got to get back to shooting the basketball better; defensively, we're gonna keep hounding people."

State play continues today at the Minot State University Dome.

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