RUGBY - Tanner Bernhardt has developed a signature skip after he hits a 3-pointer. The Rugby junior guard quickly spins away from the hoop to acknowledge his student section each time, and then bounds down the court with confidence.
Bernhardt was skipping all night at a packed Charles Hanneman Gymnasium on Friday. He hit six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points to lead No. 2 Rugby in a 66-42 win over No. 5 Des Lacs-Burlington.
Bernhardt connected on three triples in the opening quarter and added an insurance pair in the final frame for the Panthers (13-0 overall, 5-0 District 11). The game started sloppy with nine turnovers in the first half for both squads, but the nerves didn't affect the Rugby sharpshooter.
Rugby’s Zach Miller blocks a shot by Des Lacs-Burlington’s Jayden Gunville on Friday at Rugby High School. Also pictured: DL-B senior Chris Duke. Photo courtesy of Lori Gronvold/Pierce County Tribune.
"Sometimes Tanner surprises me," Rugby coach Mike Santjer said. "I don't know if he knows we're playing in a big game or not. He gets on the court and you give him the basketball and he just likes to play."
Senior guard Chris Duke hit four 3-pointers and led the Lakers (13-2, 4-0 District 12) with 18 points, but was tasked with much of the work. DL-B senior standout Tanner Holte was held in check and scored just two points in the first half. Rugby juniors Brad Heidlebaugh and Zach Miller neutralized the 6-foot-4 Holte down low, forcing him to settle for long-range shots.
"We weren't getting many perimeter shots, so they were able to probably send more guys to the post than we'd like," DL-B coach Doug Wagner said. "Credit Rugby. They did a great job defending and some shots we normally hit we missed and that's basketball."
Wagner said his team's legs played a factor as Rugby busted open the lead in the fourth quarter after leading by 10 at the half and 12 through the third. The Lakers beat District 12 rival Bishop Ryan 80-70 on Thursday. DL-B is also without 6-2 starting center Eric Knutson, who is recovering from an ankle injury.
It might not have mattered as Rugby dominated the post on both ends. Heidlebaugh scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds while Miller posted 20 and 10, respectively. Heidlebaugh had three blocks and Miller added one when he swatted Holte late in the fourth.
"He's a strong kid and he knows how to use his body to get around you," Miller said, "so we just stayed physical with him and they didn't call a whole lot of fouls."
Neither team reached the bonus in the first half and combined for just 15 total fouls in the second half. Senior guard Cole Edwards hit a long 2-pointer with a minute left in the first quarter to give the Lakers a 14-12 lead. DL-B didn't lead again.
The Lakers called timeout after Bernhardt drained a 3 to give RHS a 28-20 lead with more than three minutes left in the half. Following the inbounds pass, Bernhardt stole the ball and drove right at Edwards to draw the foul and convert a 3-point play.
"It seems like every time you get the first shot going the bucket just keeps getting bigger and that's what happened tonight," Bernhardt said.
Holte finished with 10 points and Edwards was held to six.
"We figured we could switch Zach and Brad and give 'em both time on (Holte) because he's a big body and we knew we couldn't last with one guy on him the whole game," Santjer said. "We were pretty fortunate to have two guys pressure him. Jaedon (Haman) did a fantastic job of keeping Cole out of the lane. If he can break you down and get to the middle of the lane he can kill you."
The teams are favorites to win their districts and figure to see each other deep in the Region 6 tournament.
"I think we just need to dig down and play our defense," Duke said. "We didn't play our defense tonight. Rugby seems to have our number every year."
RHS plays Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood at about 5 p.m. tonight at the Minot State University Dome. DL-B plays at Our Redeemer's Christian School on Tuesday.