In its first home game of 2019, the Dickinson High girls basketball team played even through much of its contest with Bismarck St. Mary's on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
However, with scoring droughts in both the first and second half, the Midgets came up short when the final buzzer sounded, falling to the Saints 66-43 from the Dickinson High gym.
For the first time since their season-opening loss to Bismarck Century, the Midgets' record dipped below the .500 mark at 4-5.
"I thought our energy was really low in the first half. The second half was a little bit better, but still not where it needs to be, so we have a long way to go," Dickinson head coach James Hayden said. "Obviously, we've lost our last three games, so the adversity is among us. How we handle the adversity is going to really test our character and test our team a little bit."
With Bismarck St. Mary's up 14-11 midway through the first half, the Saints earned a comfortable cushion thanks to a 10-0 run.
After sophomore center Maria Mann split a pair of free throws, senior guard Taylor Gerving picked the pocket of Midgets senior guard Gabby Jung, taking it coast-to-coast for the layup. Gerving knocked down a 3-pointer on the next Saints possession before junior guard Abigail Kopp showed off her quick hands, cleanly stripping the ball from sophomore Symone Beld and knocking down a basket on the other end.
Senior forward Marriann Senftner added a basket inside before Jung ended the momentum with a pair of free throws. The Midgets senior kept the home team within striking distance, sinking one from long distance to cut the deficit to 26-18 before being whistled for her second foul with three minutes and 41 seconds left before halftime. She would watch the rest of the half from the bench, as the road team went into the locker room with a 34-21 advantage.
When the action resumed, Dickinson picked up the intensity on the defensive end. Mixing in a full-court press with traps in the half-court, the Midgets forced their opponent into seven turnovers through its first 11 possessions in the second half.
Following a turnaround jumper and a pair of free throws from Jung, who finished with a game-high 23 points, Dickinson closed the gap 37-29 with more than 12 minutes remaining before the visitors pulled away for good.
"I thought we did come out with a little bit more energy, which was good," Hayden said. "We did force them into a lot of early turnovers, but as soon as they figured out our press, they got the ball to the middle of the floor and got some easy layups in transitions. ... That's part of the risk you take when you run a full-court press like that."
Bismarck St. Mary's pushed its advantage up to 46-33 when sophomore post Paige Balliet scored in the paint. From there, the Saints put the game away with a 10-0 burst.
Gerving and Kopp connected on back-to-back field goals, then junior Maria Mann converted a three-point play after she scored through contact in the post. Gerving finished the run with a 3-pointer.
"We really wanted to work hard on the defensive side, but offensively, I thought our transition was better tonight," Saints head coach Shannon Copas said. "I thought we were looking up the court and getting ahead the defense, so we got a few easy baskets and made it easier for us to spread them out a little bit."
Gerving led the Saints with 17 points while Kopp and the 6-foot Mann added 14 and 11 points, respectively. Junior center Haille Schweitzer, another 6-foot starter, chipped in seven points.
With their size, the Saints outrebounded Dickinson 45-28.
The Midgets played their second straight game without junior guard Peyton Selle, who is on the mend with a high-ankle sprain. Beld started in place of Selle while the 5-foot-10 Balliet was on the floor for the opening tip to help combat the team's height disadvantage.
Each player contributed five points, but Selle's absence continues to be a major obstacle to overcome.
"She's a natural leader, she really is, and she plays with an outstanding amount of energy all the time," Hayden said of Selle. "I think defensively, how intense she is all the time really leads other players all the time. ... It's tough not having her, but it is what it is. Sometimes that happens to the top-level players in the NBA or NFL, injuries happen to great athletes all the time and teams have to figure out what to do when a player like that goes down. Right now, that's what we are trying to figure out."
Bismarck St. Mary's 66, Dickinson 43
BSM 34 32
D 21 22
BSM: Taylor Gerving 17, Abigail Kopp 14, Maria Mann 11, Marrian Senftner 8, Haille Schweitzer 7, Kylie Haas 3, Madison Zander 2, Elizabeth Peyerl 2, Madeline Grad 2.
D: Gabby Jung 23, Symone Beld 5, Paige Balliet 5, Audrey Rodakowski 4, Kendryn Bullinger 3, Taya Hopfauf 3.
3-pointers: BSM 3 (Gerving 3), D 4 (Jung 2). Free throws: BSM 11-19, D 13-21. Total fouls: BSM 19, D 18. Fouled out: 1 (BSM: Senftner). Rebounds: BSM 45, D 28. Assists: BSM x (leader), D x (leader). Records: BSM 4-6 (West Region 4-5), D 4-5 (West Region 4-4).