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Mott-Regent’s stifling defense sets tone against Hettinger-Scranton

From the opening tip, the Wildfire’s energy and defense paved the way for victory.

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Mott-Regent senior guard Madison Rafferty (24) gets up a shot in the second half against Hettinger-Scranton on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Hettinger High School.
Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press

HETTINGER, ND — As the girl’s basketball season draws to a close, the race for postseason positioning heats up.

Thursday night’s contest between Mott-Regent and Hettinger-Scranton certainly had implications on the seeding for the upcoming Region 7 tournament. Both the Night Hawks and the Wildfire found themselves in the heart of the battle for the fourth and final first-round bye in the tournament, with the likes of Beulah, Bowman County, and Glen Ullin-Hebron having separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

A defensive battle broke out inside Hettinger High School with Mott-Regent defeating Hettinger-Scranton 49-43. Their defensive intensity was felt throughout from the opening tip.

Wherever the ball was, whether it was at half-court or the opposing baseline, the Wildfire (6-3, 15-4) swarmed to the ball. At times, the Night Hawks (6-5, 13-7) had trouble simply inbounding the ball after a Mott-Regent basket. Their constant ball pressure, even in the half-court, was the driving force behind their victory.

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Mott-Regent junior guard Jenessa Zentner (2) in the second half against Hettinger-Scranton on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Hettinger High School.
Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press

“They’re a team that plays extremely aggressive,” Hettinger-Scranton head coach Kelly Pierce said. “We knew they were going to be handsy and in passing lanes and play strong. I thought the first half we settled for too many threes and we didn’t attack them back.”

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Hettinger-Scranton made eight threes, compared to none for Mott-Regent, but they appeared more as a desperation shot than a product of the offensive game plan as the Wildfire defense made life tough in the paint.

The Night Hawks had just 15 points in the first half. Senior guard Bailee Pierce, Hettinger-Scranton’s leading scorer, was held scoreless in that time.

But Hettinger-Scranton clawed back. Pierce hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter to instill some life in the hosts. She would hit another 3-pointer later in the third quarter to give the Night Hawks their first lead at 33-32.

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Hettinger-Scranton senior guard Bailee Pierce (5) makes the outlet pass to freshman guard Laela Jensen (1) in the first half against Mott-Regent on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Hettinger High School.
Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press

That would prove to be the only time they possessed the lead as Mott-Regent quickly took it back with a bucket of their own. They never relinquished their lead. The closest Hettinger-Scranton would come to challenging the lead would be 47-43 in the late stages of the game.

Freshman guard Laela Jensen knocked down a three with 19 seconds left to pull them closer. Those were the final points they scored as Mott-Regent hit a pair of free throws and the Night Hawks failed to hit another shot.

The Wildfire won despite their leading scorer Madison Rafferty being the lowest scorer on the night. The senior guard finished with only five points, but had plenty of help from her teammates. Senior center Hailee Olson had a team-high 12 points. Junior guard Jenessa Zentner had ten.

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Hettinger-Scranton senior guard Bailee Pierce (5) drives into the paint in the first half against Mott-Regent on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Hettinger High School.
Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press

Hettinger-Scranton were notably outrebounded on both ends of the court, something Pierce had taken note of and hopes it doesn’t hurt the team going forward.

“It’s been our achilles heel all year,” Pierce said. “It hurt us again tonight. We had girls in the right position but we didn’t attack the ball at it’s high point.”

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Jensen finished with 15 points, Pierce totaled 11. They both had three 3-pointers.

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Mott-Regent senior guard MaryJane Mayer (5) in the second half against Hettinger-Scranton on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Hettinger High School.
Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press

As for the Region 7 standings, there's still a lot to be decided. Mott-Regent currently holds the 4 seed with Beach (5-3) and Heart River (5-4) still in contention. With the loss, the Night Hawks fell out of contention for that spot.

“Having that bye is always nice but to be honest, the way Region 7 is stacking up, we just need to be playing good basketball once we get there,” Pierce said. “There’s so many teams that can beat one another…..hopefully we can win that first round game and get into the tournament up in Trinity. Once you’re there, it’s anybody’s ball game.”

In no way is the dust settled in the race for the 4 seed. Beach will take on Heart River on Friday, Feb. 11 and Mott-Regent will play Heart River on Saturday, Feb. 12. The Wildfire will also take on Beulah (9-1, 14-5) on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

BOX SCORE

Q1Q2Q3Q4F
Mott-Regent159101549
Hettinger-Scranton69181043

MOTT-REGENT: Hailee Olson 12, Jenessa Zentner 10, Samantha Greff, Kattie Honeyman 8, MaryJane Mayer 6, Madison Rafferty 5;

HETTINGER–SCRANTON: Laela Jensen 15, Bailee Pierce 11, Ella Jensen 8, Lilli Steeke 6, Anna Havelka 3

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Hettinger-Scranton freshman guard Laela Jensen (1) tries to get around Mott-Regent senior guard MaryJane Mayer (5) in the first half on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Hettinger High School.
Race Archibald / The Dickinson Press

Race Archibald is a former sports reporter with The Dickinson Press.
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