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Watford City’s defense flusters Dickinson Trinity in quarterfinals of state basketball tournament

GRAND FORKS -- It was neither a pretty win nor a dominating win for Watford City on Thursday, but it was serviceable. Despite a sloppy second half both ways, No. 2-seeded Watford City maintained enough of a lead to escape Dickinson Trinity with a...

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Dickinson Trinity senior forward Brianna Soehren shoots over Watford City junior center MacKenzie Sparby Thursday during the quarterfinals of the Class B girls state basketball tournament at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. (Press Photo by Parker Cotton)

GRAND FORKS - It was neither a pretty win nor a dominating win for Watford City on Thursday, but it was serviceable.

Despite a sloppy second half both ways, No. 2-seeded Watford City maintained enough of a lead to escape Dickinson Trinity with a 39-23 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class B girls state basketball tournament at the Alerus Center.

The Titans (20-5) actually outscored the Wolves 11-10 in the second half, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Trinity’s first half, marred by 15 turnovers, had already done the damage.

“That first half was played at their tempo and on their terms,” Trinity head coach Carter Fong said. “And we knew full well that they were better than the team we saw in December.”

After the Titans registered a 43-29 win Dec. 18 in Dickinson, the Wolves (22-3) won the rematch and will face No. 3-seeded Park River-Fordville-Lankin in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The Titans will face unseeded Carrington at noon Friday in the consolation semifinals.

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In their first meeting, Watford City senior Katie Mogen fouled out. She came back strong in the second matchup with 14 points and eight rebounds. Wolves junior center MacKenzie Sparby was also dangerous in the post, notching a double-double with 15 points, 10 boards and two blocks.

“Coach told me before the game that I would be a really key part to getting our team where we needed to be,” Sparby said. “I knew I had a big burden on me to carry the team.”

After the Wolves took a 15-10 lead after one quarter, the Titans made just one shot from the field and were limited to two points in the second frame. Watford City scored 14 on its end, taking a 29-12 advantage into halftime.

Watford City, in its 14th appearance in the state tournament, forced 15 first-half turnovers, which led to 14 points going the other way. It was these kinds of “catastrophic” turnovers that Fong said his team needed to avoid.

“Things unraveled for us in the second quarter,” he said. “Obviously our shooting percentage wasn’t there, and they weren’t shooting lights-out either, but we gave up some turnovers that went directly to layups, and that was the difference. The reality for our team is that we probably don’t have the offensive firepower to dig ourselves out of a double-digit hole.”

Trinity senior forward Alanna Sickler recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds, but she was the only Titan with more than four points. The Titans made just 7 of 41 (16 percent) shots from the field for the game and just 1 of 15 3-point attempts.

Trinity seniors Brianna Soehren and Madi Jahner added four and three points, respectively. Soehren had a game-high 13 rebounds.

Watford City senior Kaytlyn Grimes came off the bench to score five points as the Wolves’ third-leading scorer.

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Sickler and Sparby scored the only two points for their respective teams in the third quarter, and the Titans won the fourth quarter 9-8, though the deficit was too much to overcome.

“We put together a second half, effort-wise, that we can be proud of,” Fong said. “We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole.”

Watford City shot 16 of 49 (32 percent) from the field for the game and committed 18 turnovers, but the Wolves were able to grind out the win with defense nonetheless.

“We have solid defenders in the half-court and full-court pressure situations,” head coach John Zenz said. “We had good back-side help when they tried to get the ball inside, and we rebounded well. It all worked well today.”

The Titans end the first day of the state tournament disappointed yet mindful of what they can still accomplish.

“Everyone’s goal coming in is to be a state champion,” Sickler said, “but the bracket that we’re going to be in now, this is going to be our championship bracket, so we have to go out knowing we can still do great things.”

DT   10   12   14    23

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WC   15   29   31   39

DT: Alanna Sickler 13, Brianna Soehren 4, Madi Jahner 3, Megan Krebs 2, Lauren Stafford 1.

WC: MacKenzie Sparby 15, Katie Mogen 14, Kaytlyn Grimes 5, Lea Arndt 2, Ricki Lindley 2, Avery Sundeen 1.

3-pointers: DT 1 (Jahner 1), WC 0. Free throws: DT 8-13, WC 7-11. Total fouls: DT 13, WC 12. Rebounds: DT 35 (Soehren 13), WC 36 (Sparby 10). Assists: DT 6 (Jahner 2), WC 13 (K. Mogen 3). Steals: DT 9 (Jahner 3), WC 13 (Arndt 4). Blocks: DT 1 (Jahner 1), WC 2 (Sparby 2). Turnovers: DT 20, WC 18.

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