Heart River advances following victory over Killdeer 

Cougars clinch quarterfinal spot in Region 7 tourney

Heart River win their play-in game against Killdeer for entry into the 2022 Region 7 Tournament.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

SOUTH HEART, N.D. — The #10 Cowboys rustled up their posse and headed to South Heart for a match against the #7 Cougars Tuesday night in the play-in format.

Heart River would come away with a 52-45 victory, clinching a spot in the Region 7 championship quarterfinals, but not without a rigorous fight from a game Killdeer squad.

The Cougars enjoyed home advantage, but the cheers and support were equally loud from both team's family, peers and friends. The two teams were familiar with each other, having clashed twice on the season, with both games resulting in wins for the Cougars.

Despite the season experience against the Cowboys, Head coach Erik Klein said his Cougars recognized a Killdeer team rebounding in the second half of the season under a much improved defensive scheme. Ultimately, their third and final match on the season would come down to a tie leading into the final eight minutes of the game.

“We knew it was going to be an absolute dogfight tonight and it was,” Klein said. “We're an older team than Killdeer and I think that definitely played to our advantage tonight with a big atmosphere like this… I think tonight was a great preview of how bright Killdeer’s future is going to be in boys basketball."


Beauden Krueger scores after stealing the ball from Killdeer in their play-in game on Tuesday, March 1.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The first quarter ended with the Cougars in a 14-10 deficit after going 2-for-5 at the free-throw line and having only two of their shooters finding paths to the basket inside the paint. The Cowboys squad featured a well rounded offense, with multiple players using the motion offense against the zone contributing buckets for a team not willing to lay down.

The adaptability of Heart River, to be able to play against a rapidly changing offense and defensive scheme, slowly broke through what few weaknesses the Cowboys showed.

By the second quarter, Heart River's aggressive defense held Killdeer to five points, as Junior guard Austin Buckman provided constant man-to-man pressure mid-court. In total, the Cougars tallied 14 points to end the first half with the lead at 24-19.

“I think we were fairly rattled to start the game and I don't know if it was the loud gym but we were tight,” Klein said. “Then we started playing basketball like the way we play basketball in that second quarter and got a little looser… So it was almost like we needed to get the juice going and just realize that we need to relax, calm down and play basketball.”

The Cougars would, once again, start cold being outscored to begin the second half as a hot Killdeer squad would find seams inside for easy points in the paint.

Inside the paint was where the Cougars had most of their trouble with the Cowboy's height advantage and 1-3-1 cutters left easy baskets.

Killdeer would make it a one-point game with two minutes remaining in the third, but Heart River would retain the narrow lead going into the final quarter.

“They got fantastic post play,” Klein said. “Owen Schleppenbach is going to be one heck of a basketball player… Calvin Dobitz is a hard nose physical player and Hank Redsky Starr is a phenomenal athlete who is going to score all over the court. It's not just under the basket.”


Hank Redsky Starr blocks Beauden Krueger shot from within the paint.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The fourth quarter began with an exciting tit-for-tat back and forth which kept the scoreboard operator sufficiently employed as both teams would drop multiple points in quick succession. With the score at 35-32 in favor of Heart River, the game shifted to the Cowboys having to defend a full-court press for the remainder of the game.

Opportunities brought by the press were capitalized on by the Cougars returned to their groove going on a game sealing 11-2 run to close the game.

“I feel like our boys were prepared coming into the game. We knew Killdeer was going to be prepared for our full-court pressure, so we knew that wasn't something that we were going to be able to fall back on tonight,” Klein said. “We had to get in the half court and play some defense. One thing that I will give Killdeer a lot of credit for is that I wasn't necessarily prepared for the pressure that they put on us.”

Kling was the Cougars’ lead shooter with 14 and going 4-for-4 in the final quarter. Senior post Tarence Dillinger followed with 13. Killdeer had two players in double figures; Calvin Dobitz with 15 and Schleppenbach with 12.

Tarence Dillinger is fouled as he takes air for a shot inside the paint.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

With the play-in games over the brackets for the tourney’s quarterfinal have been set and Heart River will battle Dickinson Trinity next Monday, March 7.

“We are going game-by-game right now so the only thing we are thinking about is getting ourselves better and working on what we need to do to be successful against Dickinson Trinity,” Klein said. “We know they are a great basketball team and the Dickinson Trinity coaching basketball staff is second to none.”


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Heart River: Cayden Kling 14,Tarence Dillinger 13, Beaudon Krueger 11, Austin Buckman, Braden Obrigewitch 6, Jordan Koppinger 2; Killdeer: Calvin Dobitz 15, Owen Schleppenbach 12, Colby Asay 7, Redsky Starr 6, Keith Dukart 5

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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