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Dickinson Trinity Titans girls basketball takes seventh at state tournament with win over Rugby

GRAND FORKS -- Dickinson Trinity was committed to not treating its seventh-place game as a consolation. It showed in the Titans' effort, as they put together their two most-complete halves of basketball to win 36-30 over Rugby on Saturday afterno...

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Dickinson Trinity senior forward Alanna Sickler, left, makes a move to the basket around Rugby sophomore forward Tristin Lunde in the seventh-place game of the Class B girls state basketball tournament Saturday at the Alerus Center. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

GRAND FORKS - Dickinson Trinity was committed to not treating its seventh-place game as a consolation.

It showed in the Titans’ effort, as they put together their two most-complete halves of basketball to win 36-30 over Rugby on Saturday afternoon at the Class B girls state basketball tournament at the Alerus Center.

“We just wanted to come away with a win because we knew only four teams in the state were going to go out with a win,” sophomore forward Jordie McNeilly said, “and we wanted to be one of those teams.”

Trinity (21-6) was led by its seniors in the final game of their careers. Forward Alanna Sickler, who returned from a scary fall on Friday, had a game-high 13 points with nine rebounds, and forward Brianna Soehren had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds along with three blocks. Guard Madi Jahner added eight points with five boards, two steals and two assists.

“We decided that everybody would play this game as if it was their last, because for our seniors it was, and it really showed,” head coach Carter Fong said.

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McNeilly was the only other Titan to score - she hit a 3-pointer and another jumper in the second half to finish with five points - and she also limited Rugby senior guard Shea Heidelbaugh to eight points on 4 of 20 shooting, a key component to holding the Panthers to their lowest-scoring game of the season. McNeilly also had a team-high three steals.

“Defensively, what an effort. Third game in three days. A seventh-place game is really gut-check time,” Fong said. “If you had told me coming into the state tournament that our defense would hold our opponents to 39, 40 and 30 points, I would have signed up for that in a heartbeat. The offense came and went throughout the tournament and barely showed up until today, but it was a total team effort, and we couldn’t be prouder of our girls.

“Jordie did an outstanding job on Shea Heidelbaugh. Her success on defense, I think, gave her more confidence on offense. It was great to see her hard work pay off on both ends today.”

Rugby, which entered the tournament 24-1 and the No. 4 seed, and Trinity were tied at eight after the first quarter and battled through the second. Panthers junior center Breanna Thompson hit a short jumper with time winding down in the half, but the Titans would get back in position on offense, and Soehren hit a shot at the buzzer to send Trinity into the halftime break ahead 19-16.

The Panthers (24-4) managed just three points in the third quarter while the Titans built a lead. Trinity would increase its advantage to as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter. Rugby hit a string of shots at the end to narrow the margin but was ultimately turned away.

“This was our first trip back to a state tournament in 40 years, whether it be Class A or B, and I don't think it's going to be another 40 years until our next one,” Panthers head coach Jen Brossart said. “The future is bright for our program. We have a lot of young kids coming back. I'd look for us to be back here probably in the next few years.”

Rugby freshman guard Anni Stier scored a team-high nine points. The Panthers as a team shot just 11 of 50 (22 percent) from the field.

“To go out on a win with our defense being on point is really nice,” Sickler said. “Coming into the state tournament, we were in the top 10 defensive teams, so it’s awesome we could live up to that one last time.”

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Sickler said it was refreshing to have the team turn in a solid effort in its final outing.

“I knew it was going to be my last game. Not many players know when their season is going to end,” she said. “We all had to tough it out. We played two games before this - aggressive games. We had to play as a team.”

Jahner added that despite taking fourth last season, that still meant ending on a loss. With a win Saturday, she, Sickler, Soehren and guard Kennedy Keator, who was sidelined with an injury most of the season, got to end their high school basketball careers with a victory.

“Comparing this to last year and fourth place, seventh feels great to leave Trinity basketball with a win,” Jahner said. “I’m at peace. There’s a lot of happy feelings.”

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R: Anni Stier 9, Shea Heidlebaugh 8, Ashley Schmaltz 5, Breanna Thompson 4, Karsyn Hager 3, Maddie Uhlenkamp 1.

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DT: Alanna Sickler 13, Brianna Soehren 10, Madi Jahner 8, Jordie McNeilly 5.

3-pointers: R 3 (Stier 1, Schmaltz 1, Hager 1), DT 3 (Jahner 2, McNeilly 1). Free throws: R 5-11, DT 3-8. Total fouls: R 11, DT 12. Rebounds: R 28 (Thompson 8), 37 (Soehren 12). Assists: R 4 (4 tied, 1), DT 9 (Abby Jones 3). Steals: R 8 (Thompson 3, Lauren Kraft 3), DT 9 (McNeilly 3). Blocks: R 7 (Thompson 5), DT 5 (Soehren 3). Turnovers: R 11, DT 18.

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