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Watford City Wolves beat New England Tigers for girls basketball Roughrider championship

KILLDEER -- It looked like how coaches draw it up. Watford City's girls basketball team had a handful of possessions Saturday where the ball hit the ground fewer than five times. The ball moved faster than New England's defense could, and that pr...

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New England senior Jenna Ehlis, right, defends Watford City senior Lea Arndt during the championship game of the Roughrider Tournament Saturday at Killdeer High School. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

KILLDEER - It looked like how coaches draw it up.
Watford City’s girls basketball team had a handful of possessions Saturday where the ball hit the ground fewer than five times.
The ball moved faster than New England’s defense could, and that proved to be the difference in a 76-41 Wolves victory in the championship game of the Roughrider Tournament at Killdeer High School.
“We had some good passing all around,” Watford City head coach John Zenz said. “We had some good penetration and drop-off passes to our posts, or even post-to-post passing, to create some nice opportunities for ourselves inside.”
Watford City forwards Mackenzie Sparby and Katie Mogen scored 18 and 23 points, respectively, to lead the way for the Wolves, who won the Roughrider Tournament for the fifth time in six seasons. The only year in that span they didn’t win was 2013, when they were runner-up to Bowman County.
Watford City’s full-court press again got the better of the opposing team, as New England was hounded into 32 turnovers.
The Tigers broke the press a number of times in the early minutes, but Watford City buckled down and held a 22-9 advantage after the first quarter. Still, those nine points were more than Watford City had allowed in the opening frame in the previous two games combined (six).
“We came out with our game plan, but Watford City is a good team with some long arms,” Tigers head coach Jordyn Bender said. “They were thrown off by the press right away, and our girls got down on themselves early. We never gave up in the game though.”
In the second quarter, the Wolves backed the press up to start at half court, which was also difficult to adjust to.
“We had a lot of travels and a lot of not-very-good passes,” Bender said. “We were expecting the pressure, but it wasn’t there (right away). We found ourselves doing a lot of dribbling tonight instead of pushing the ball like we’re really used to. They slowed us down and got us out of our game.”
Early foul trouble doomed the Tigers as well, as Hailee Kuske, Julia Eineborg Schon and Paige Ehlis were all sitting down with two fouls in the second quarter, taking a lot of height off the floor.

“Paige is a guard, but she’s our third-tallest player, so that’s going to hurt us,” Bender said. “We needed to make sure we played smart basketball from the beginning and not put ourselves in that situation.”
Once the Tigers went with a lineup of five guards, Watford City used its size advantage to take over on the glass and in their own offensive lane to build its lead. New England scored 18 points in the second quarter, but the Wolves made the Tigers pay for having to go small and put up 31 points of their own. They led 53-27 at the half.
“We were able to create some opportunities - a 4-0 or 6-0 run - to steadily open up a lead,” Zenz said. “We really used the day in between games to talk about playing like we know we’re capable of, and we played much better for four quarters today than we did in our semifinal game. Our pressure just kind of wore them out.”
The lopsided loss aside, Bender said it was a worthwhile experience for her team to see a challenge this early in the year.
“I told the girls, ‘We got second place in a tournament, and we lost to a really good team,’” Bender said. “We can only learn from this. We’re going to see presses like that in the future. We have a lot to look forward to.”
Senior Jenna Ehlis scored 12 points to lead the Tigers, and freshman Elizabeth Kaufman backed her up with 10. Sophomore Jordan Kass had five of the Tigers’ nine steals in the game.

WC 22 31 11 12
NE 9 18 6 8
WC: Lindsey Peterson 4, Lindley 5, Lea Amdt 7, Reiann Lindley 2, Avery Sundeen 5, Kaytlyn Grimes 6, Krystal Wold 2, Katie Mogen 23, Ali Mogen 4, Mackenzie Sparby 18.
NE: Tori Jalbert 3, Kassi Lara 2, Paige Ehlis 5, Julia Eineborg 3, Jenna Ehlis 12, Hailee Kuske 2, Takoda Westling 2, Elizabeth Kaufman 10, Jordan Kass 2.
3-pointers: WC 4 (Lindley 1, Amdt 1, Sundeen 1, K. Mogen 23, A. Mogen 4, Sparby 18), NE 1 (Jalbert 1). Free throws: WC 8-21, NE 17-27. Total fouls: WC 20, NE 14. Rebounds: WC 32 (Two tied for 6), NE 27 (J. Ehlis 9). Assists: WC 12 (Lindley 3), NE 3 (Three tied for 1). Steals: WC 21 (K. Mogen 6), NE 9 (Kass 5). Blocks: WC 2 (Sparby 2), NE 2 (J. Ehlis 2). Turnovers: WC 17, NE 32.

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