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'Turned into a grinder': Titans seniors vital in tight victory over Killdeer

While the temperatures outside were well below zero degrees on Tuesday, Jan. 29, the action inside of the Knights of Columbus Activities Center sizzled, as the Dickinson Trinity and Killdeer girls basketball teams collided for a whale of a Region...

Defended by Killdeer junior guard Madison Wilhelm, Dickinson Trinity senior guard Masy Kuntz dribbles into the lane on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)
Defended by Killdeer junior guard Madison Wilhelm, Dickinson Trinity senior guard Masy Kuntz dribbles into the lane on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

While the temperatures outside were well below zero degrees on Tuesday, Jan. 29, the action inside of the Knights of Columbus Activities Center sizzled, as the Dickinson Trinity and Killdeer girls basketball teams collided for a whale of a Region 7 regular season contest.

Played within a six-point margin in the second half, the game wasn't decided until the final second, as the Titans captured their fourth victory in a row with a 53-51 triumph over the Cowboys.

During the first three games of its winning streak, Dickinson Trinity won by an average of 19 points per game before barely surviving a strong challenge from the defending Region 7 champions.

"We have a lot of respect for Killdeer's program. It doesn't seem to matter so much the personnel each team has from year-to-year, it's a battle," Titans head coach Carter Fong said. "We've had a great month of January and we were probably overdue for one of these games that turned into a grinder. ...They're not all going to be pretty over the course of the year, but it was very important for us to hold serve at home in the region and we found a way."

Following a third quarter that featured six lead changes, the Cowboys entered the fourth with a 36-35 advantage. After each squad traded baskets to start the final frame, the Titans surged in front and never trailed again thanks to the play of their three senior starters.

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Senior guard Bre Tessier nailed a baseline turnaround jumper to give the home team a 39-38 lead. Dickinson Trinity got a defensive stop on the ensuing possession before senior guard Masy Kuntz connected on a shot inside while being fouled. Following a Cowboys turnover, sophomore forward Abbey Kubas dribbled the ball the length of the floor and missed on a leaner in transition, but Kuntz cleaned up the offensive board and scored on a putback, putting the Titans up 43-38 midway into the frame.

In what was her finest game of the season, Kuntz finished with 10 points, eight rebounds - five on the offensive end - and three steals.

"Masy Kuntz had her best game of the year bar none for us," Fong said. "Most of her work was on the offensive glass. She also did an excellent job on the defensive end."

Killdeer cut its deficit to 46-45 following a 3-pointer from senior guard Melayna Four Bear and a free throw from junior guard Chelsey Morlock, but Dickinson Trinity pushed out to its biggest advantage of the game with a long-distance make from senior forward Alexa Walby and another Tessier basket on a baseline drive.

The Cowboys would not go down quietly, though. Senior forward Shawnee Hansen converted a three-point play with one minute and 10 seconds remaining in regulation, making it a one-possession game at 50-48. After Kuntz missed on the front end of a 1-and-1, the road team nearly took the lead, but a corner-three from senior guard Karly Bang bounced off the rim and out.

On the Titans end of the floor, Kubas appeared to travel with the ball, but a foul was called underneath before the violation. The 5-foot-11 forward split a pair of free throws.

With Killdeer holding possession, Hansen drove into the paint before kicking it out to a wide-open Four Bear on the perimeter, but the pass was slightly off-target and she was unable to get off the potential game-tying shot. Dribbling into the corner, Four Bear tossed a cross-court pass back to Hansen, but Walby stepped in front of the delivery and collided with Hansen upon its arrival. On a bang-bang play, the whistle went in the Titans favor, sending Walby to the line with 19.2 seconds left.

Walby missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but as the Cowboys raced up the floor after collecting the rebound, senior guard Steena Larson was called for too many steps when she picked up her dribble.

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Frustrated with the calls at the end of the game, Killdeer head coach Chad Dahlen picked up a technical foul.

"I told the girls (after the game) that I thought the refs did a really good job overall. There were a couple of calls that didn't go our way and I should have kept my cool" Dahlen said. "I apologized to them. I shouldn't have gotten hot-headed I guess, but overall, I thought the refs did a really good job on the game. I thought it was fair."

While Walby missed each of the two technical foul shots, she was sent to the line again and pushed the lead up to 53-48 with 7.8 seconds to go. Hansen knocked in a 3-pointer off the glass with 1.3 seconds left, but the Titans were able to run out the clock.

Walby, who joined Kuntz and Tessier with 10 points each to lead the Titans, felt the victory was a small dose of payback after Killdeer eliminated Dickinson Trinity on its home floor last season during a Region 7 quarterfinal contest, which also came down to the final seconds.

"This game was huge, especially since we all had something to prove losing to them during last year regionals on this court," Walby said. "I think we all wanted to change the way we felt about playing them. We knew they were a good team, so we knew we had to come out strong and play well."

Although she collected a game-high 12 rebounds, Kubas, the Titans leading scorer, was held to just eight points due in large part to an effective, match-up 2-3 zone defense, which cluttered the paint and kept the ball out of her hands.

During the first quarter, Hansen was particularly disruptive at the top of the zone. As soon as a Titans player dribbled the ball past half court, Hansen cut off any breathing room with terrific pressure. On three separate occasions during the first quarter, she stole the ball, dribbled the length of the court and got a lay-up. On another occasion, her pressure resulted in a traveling violation.

Hansen finished with a game-high 24 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

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"I've just been working so hard the past four years of my defense, it's kind of been the main thing that I usually do," Hansen said. "The last couple of years, I haven't been the offensive threat, so I just keep working on my defense while trying to improve my offense as well."

Dickinson Trinity 53, Killdeer 51

K 14 7 15 15

DT 7 16 12 18

K: Shawnee Hansen 24, Melayna Four Bear 12, Karly Bang 4, Chelsey Morlock 3, Shyanne Oversen 3, Kylee Boltz 2, Myranda Reiss 2, Steena Larson 1.

DT: Masy Kuntz 10, Alexa Walby 10, Bre Tessier 10, Abbey Kubas 8, Kylen Kubas 8, Kara Wanner 5, Amaya Willer 2

3-pointers: K 5 (Hansen 2, Four Bear 2), DT 5 (K. Kubas 2). Free throws: K 8-19, DT 6-24. Total fouls: K 20, DT 16. Technical fouls: 1 (K: Chad Dahlen). Rebounds: K 50 (Hansen 9), DT 45 (A. Kubas 12). Steals: K 8 (Hansen 4), DT 9 (Kuntz 3). Records: K 7-10 (Region 7 1-6), DT 11-5 (Region 7 6-1).

Related Topics: KILLDEER COWBOYS
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