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Exhilarating win vaults Cowboys to Class B State Final

Killdeer's Trae Murray (4) looks to the basket while under pressure from Thompson's Taylor Zak Friday during a semi-final game of the State B tournament in Minot. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
Killdeer's Shawnee Hansen (24) drives around Thompson's Mackenzie Hughes Friday during a semi-final game of the State B tournament in Minot. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 2

MINOT — Missed free throws, allowing a second half surge, and easy baskets trickling painfully off of rim all appeared to doom the Killdeer girls basketball team and its chances at a title.

But as they've shown throughout the season, the Cowboys' resilience in critical moments is as strong as it gets.

Killdeer will play in its first State Final in school history after defeating Thompson High 48-47 in the Class B State Tournament Semifinal on Friday, March 2 from the Minot State Dome.

Collecting an offensive rebound, junior forward Steena Larsen put the Cowboys up for good with a putback while being fouled with just under two minutes remaining in the game.

"I think we just had faith in the face of adversity," Killdeer head coach Ashlee Viveros said. "We faced a lot of adversity. We didn't shoot very well from the free throw line in the first half. We talked to them in the second half to adjust that because I think it was kind of a lack of focus. They know how to make free throws, so in the second half, step up to that free throw line and hit that shot that you've made a thousand times. I guess the one way I could describe it is just having faith, persistence, and heart when you face adversity, but I feel like they really did do that."

After her putback, Larsen missed her ensuing free throw, but an offensive rebound resulted in an Reiss airball from outside. Rebounding the miss, the Tommies lost control of the ball racing up the court. Larsen was trapped by three Thompson players but Killdeer was awarded with a timeout just milliseconds before a jump ball call would've given the Tommies possession.

Killdeer senior guard Sydney Anderson was fouled, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Thompson rebounded the ball and had a chance to regain the lead, but Cowboys senior forward Trae Murray stepped in front of Tommies sophomore guard Kaia Sorby to draw a charge with 14.9 seconds remaining.

"I knew that was going to big call, a big game-changing call," Murray said. "Our coach, ever since we started out eighth grade together, whenever someone takes a charge, we get ice cream, that's kind of a thing. I'm willing to take a lot of charges, one game I think I had three or four. I knew it was something that needed to happen. It hurt, but I think pain is only temporary and this kind of feeling is going to last a lifetime."

Twice in the remaining seconds, Reiss was fouled and sent to the free throw line. She calmly drilled all of her attempts for a Cowboys team that was only 9-for-23 from the charity stripe.

"Coach said to play and hit free throws," Reiss said. "I knew to step up and be calm just like it's practice. We shot free throws this morning so I stepped up with the biggest confidence and calmed down and knew it was up to me."

Down by three, Thompson junior forward Taylor Zak elected to go for two, but her shot went through the cylinder as time expired.

"I think tonight's game for Killdeer was a lot like last night's game," Tommies head coach Jason Brend said. "Their opponents make runs at them, but they have an answer. Every time I felt like we may be finding something to take advantage of and exploit, we'd do that for a couple of possessions and they'd fix it. They are just a great team. They know how to finish and tip of the hat to them, they performed well."

Killdeer led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter following a Reiss 3-pointer.

With a slot into the state final on the line, both teams appeared to show their nerves in the next period. Half of the second quarter ticked off the scoreboard before either team netted a basket. Thompson junior guard Brittney Munson ended the drought with a 3-pointer from the left wing. The Cowboys responded when Anderson was granted an opportunity for a three-point play after scoring through on an inbound play. The guard however missed the free throw, as the team was only 2-for-12 from the line in the first half.

Killdeer led 21-17 at halftime, but the Tommies scored the first 12 points of the second half. Eight of those points game senior forward Kailen Dolleslager, who finished with a game-high 16 points.

The Cowboys cut the deficit to three with a Murray basket inside at the end of the third quarter. She finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Anderson added nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds (five offensive). Killdeer dominated the offensive glass, collected 14 offensive rebounds.

"I think offensive rebounding is crucial and you probably heard me screaming to the girls 'we need rebounders,' Viveros said. "We typically bring four to the boards and one to protect back because we're not perfect and we're not going to make the first shot. So we need four girls sliding to the boards and getting that second opportunity to either get the basket or get fouled and put some fouls on the [scoreboard]."

What's left between Killdeer and state gold is Grant County, who defeated top seeded Medina Pingree-Buchanan 49-47 in the second state semifinal.

"On our end, I think it's going to take exactly what you saw tonight," Viveros said. "There's going to be adversity and if we face the adversity and stay strong together, keep playing this game with passion and love, it's definitely going to be a good game."

Killdeer 48, Thompson 47

T 10 7 9 18

K 12 9 16 14

T: Kailen Dolleslager 16, Mackenzie Hughes 12, Taylor Zak 8, Kaia Sorby 4, Brittney Munson 3, Caroline Nistler 2, Macy Jordheim 2

K: Trae Murray 14, Bridgette Reiss 10, Sydney Anderson 9, Shawnee Hansen 5, Steena Larsen 4, Melayna Four Bear 3, Hannah Kling 3.

3-pointers: T 3 (Hughes 2), K 5 (Reiss 2). Free throws: T 4-6, K 9-23. Total fouls: T 19, K 9. Rebounds: T 38 (Jordheim 10), K 32 (Anderson 12). Assists: T 15 (Sorby 4, Zak 4), K 10 (Larsen 4). Steals: T 7 (Dolleslager 4), K 8 (Hansen 3). Blocks: T 1 (Zak), K 1 (Murray 1). Turnovers: T 17, K 13. Records: T 22-4, K 22-4.

Patrick Bernadeau

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. He can be reached at his office number (701) 456-1211 or email him at pbernadeau@thedickinsonpress.com. Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers (TCPalm.com) in Stuart, FL as well as carrying bylines from the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today and Naples Daily News. Prior to his move to Dickinson, he resided in Port St. Lucie, FL, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Florida Atlantic University. Patrick was born and raised in Brockton, Mass and is an avid Boston sports fan. Born to Haitian parents, Patrick's favorite meal is Griot with Banana Peze, Pikliz (Fried pork with smashed plaintains and a spicy vegetable relish) and a tall glass of Cherry Coke.

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