Rugby capitalizes on chance to take down Oak Grove

BISMARCK -- Rugby got another crack at Fargo Oak Grove during the North Dakota Class B state boys basketball tournament and the Panthers were not about to squander the opportunity.

BISMARCK - Rugby got another crack at Fargo Oak Grove during the North Dakota Class B state boys basketball tournament and the Panthers were not about to squander the opportunity.

A win meant the No. 1-ranked Panthers would return to the state championship game a year after it lost to the Grovers in overtime during the 2014 final.

Rugby took care of its unfinished business by defeating No. 4-ranked Oak Grove 81-65 in the state semifinals Friday at the Bismarck Event Center.

“It feels great to get an opportunity to finish what we started a year ago,” Rugby senior Nolan Hovland said.

With a lot riding on the contest, Rugby quickly established itself as the aggressors. Early on the eagerness led to seven turnovers in the first quarter, but once Rugby got settled in, its veteran roster began to attack the hoop.


“They were on a mission and they played well,” Oak Grove head coach Kyle Card said. “We gave them some fits early and did some things to confuse them, but with their leadership from their three guys (Brad) Heidlebaugh, (Tanner) Bernhardt and (Zach) Miller they were able to take over. They made plays when they had to.”

Heidlebaugh - a North Dakota Mr. Basketball finalist - paced the Panthers with 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Miller and Bernhardt each added 17 and 16 points, respectively.

“They wanted this game pretty bad, and they were more aggressive,” Card said. “They took it to us.”

Rugby (24-2) advance to the state championship game at 8 p.m. today. Oak Grove (22-5) plays in the third-place game at 6 p.m. today.

“It is always fun to get a little revenge,” Bernhardt said. “We had to stay focused and play tough defense. That is what we did.”

Oak Grove led 17-12 after the first quarter, but the Panthers outscored the Grovers 23-12 in the second quarter to retake the lead.

Rugby began to pull away in the third quarter.

Bernhardt connected for a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left in the third quarter to give Rugby a 48-37 lead - its first double-digit lead of the game.


While finding its offensive rhythm, the Panthers also grabbed momentum by playing defense.

Hovland guarded Oak Grove Mr. Basketball finalist Carter Kretchman. Kretchman and other Grovers battled foul trouble much of the game, contributing to the senior point guard being held to 10 points.

Kretchman scored 36 points in the title game against Rugby a year ago.

“They had some help and they were not going to let Carter get going again,” Card said. “We thought that would happen because of what he did last year.”

Senior guard Christian Adams scored 21 points to lead the Grovers. Senior forward Isaac Olson added 17 points and nine rebounds for Oak Grove.

“Defense was our thing we worked on in the off season and (Friday) we just exemplified it,” Heidlebaugh said. “The defense sparked us.”

The Panthers last won a state boys basketball championship in 1962 while competing in Class A. Rugby won a pair of Class B championships in 1940 and 1941.

OG                         17    29    48    65


R                            12    35    58    81

OAK GROVE: Kretchman 10, Slagle 1, Teigen 2, Richards 6, Bakkegard 8, Adams 21, Olson 17.

RUGBY: Berhardt 16, Heidlebaugh 25, Michels 10, Hovland 8, Hager 5, Miller 17.

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