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Rugby drains 3’s, defeats North Star

FNS Photo by John Stennes Rugby’s Tanner Bernhardt, left, scores on a fastbreak layup against North Star’s Alex Weston in a semifinal game of the Class B state tournament on Friday in Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS — The 2 for 22 shooting Thursday at the Alerus Center really wasn’t the Rugby team Panthers coach Mike Santjer knows.

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“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean last night,” Santjer said of his team’s long-range shooting in the quarterfinals of the North Dakota Class B boys high school basketball tournament. “But we made some improvements tonight.”

The offense was working better all-around Friday as Rugby earned a berth in the championship game of the state tournament. Rugby rode a big second-half start to a 54-44 win against North Star in the semifinals, setting up a title game-matchup tonight against Fargo Oak Grove.

Rugby broke the game open with a 12-5 spurt to start the second half.

Chris Hamilton and Tanner Bernhardt started the run from long range. They sandwiched 3’s around a 3-pointer by Bearcats freshman Jayden Komrosky. Rugby then went inside, Brad Heidlebaugh driving the lane for a layup and Zach Miller scoring two from close range.

“We like to get the ball inside,” said Santjer, whose team was 6-of-21 on 3-pointers against the Bearcats. “But we need to be hitting those outside shots to force defenses out on us. We’re usually a pretty good shooting team.”

That gave Rugby a 38-24 lead with 4:10 left in the third. North Star got no closer than eight the rest of the way.

“We struggled offensively in the first half,” North Star coach Jeff Hagler said. “And we were only down seven. We felt we were in a pretty good situation. But they came out in the second half and, boom, boom, boom, hit the shots.

“It seemed like, after that, every time we made a basket, they had an answer.”

Rugby trailed only once, with 2:12 left in the first quarter when an Alex Weston basket gave the Bearcats a 10-8 advantage. Rugby answered with a 14-2 run.

Bernhardt hit a 3-pointer from left wing and Nolan Hovland banked in a 10-footer from the left side to give the Panthers a 13-10 lead after one.

When Heidlebaugh with some highlight-reel finishes and Bernhardt from the perimeter sparked a 9-2 run to start the second quarter.

Twice Heidlebaugh, a 6-foot-4 junior, made steals and finished breakaways with two-handed slam dunks. Bernhardt hit a 15-footer from the right wing and a 3-pointer from the right base in the spurt. The Panthers led 26-19 at intermission.

“If nothing else, the crowd got to see Brad put on a show,” Santjer said.

Bernhardt and Heidlebaugh each scored 16 and Miller had 10 to lead Rugby. Weston had a game-high 20 points, with Christian Kvilvang adding 11 for North Star.

“Our defense was phenomenal,” Stanjer said. “We didn’t give them too many open looks. I think physically we wore them down.”

Rugby will try to cap a perfect season when it meets Fargo Oak Grove for the title at approximately 8 p.m. today. Rugby, 27-0, will be bidding for its first Class B state title since winning back-to-back championships in 1940-41. Oak Grove (25-2) won its last B championship in 2000.

North Star (19-8) plays Linton-HMB (21-5) in the third-place game at 6 p.m.

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