RUGBY - Brad Heidlebaugh took over late to score 15 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as No. 1 Rugby beat No. 2 Four Winds-Minnewaukan 76-66 in Class B boys basketball on Tuesday.
The Panthers (17-0) took their final lead with more than three minutes remaining in the first quarter and held off the Indians (15-2) in front of a packed crowd at Charles Hanneman Gymnasium.
"They probably match up with us as well as anybody does," RHS coach Mike Santjer said. "They like to push the pace and we didn't go very deep into our bench tonight, but we were able to hold on. They're a heck of a team. I wish we could say, 'Let's see them again on a Saturday in March.' "
Lori Gronvold/Special to The Minot Daily News
Rugby junior Brad Heidlebaugh swats Four Winds-Minnewaukan senior Hadley Smith (32) on Tuesday at Rugby High School.
FW-M would relish that opportunity after a poor-shooting performance that saw junior standout Trayvon McKay hit his only 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. McKay's three fouls in the first quarter, including a technical, haunted the shooter as he picked up his fifth with nearly five minutes left in the game. He finished with 18 points, one behind FW-M senior Hadley Smith.
"We battled and battled and battled, but too many easy baskets for Rugby is just too much to overcome," FW-M coach Rick Smith said. "Thirteen free throws in the first half slowed the game down. I know they like to get up and down, too, but if you give Rugby 13 freebies in the first half that's not a good sign neither. I thought we were a little too emotional, too hyped up. It's been a long time since we've been in a battle like this since the Des Lacs game (Dec. 21)."
The Lakers dealt FW-M its only other loss.
Rugby was ready for what Santjer described as his team's toughest test yet. Rugby led 36-29 at the half and plowed ahead for a 16-point lead behind a huge third quarter from senior guard Jaedon Haman. Relied on more for his defensive play, Haman scored nine points in the third quarter despite averaging just six per game entering Tuesday.
The Indians cut the Rugby lead to six on a Smith 3-pointer with 4:24 left in the third and that was as close as they got in the second half. Haman responded with a gutsy drive and converted a 3-point play.
"It was a really good experience," Haman said. "It was nervous at times, but we just stuck with it, dug down and held 'em and went out and played basketball."
Heidlebaugh took over from there, scoring 15 of the Panthers' 16 points in the fourth.
"I think I had the matchup and I kind of went after them a bit," said Heidlebaugh, who also pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds.
FW-M didn't go away quietly as Smith picked up the slack with McKay fouled out. Smith set up a 3-pointer for freshman Steve Redfox to cut the deficit to nine. Smith followed with two jumpers of his own and the score was 69-62 with 3:24 left.
Heidlebaugh squashed that momentum with a midrange fadeaway as the shot clock expired on the next possession.
"Brad's the man down there," McKay said. "He's a player. I think Rugby's the team to beat this year."
Rugby junior forward Zach Miller finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and scored half his points in the first quarter. Haman and junior Tanner Bernhardt finished with 13 each. Bernhardt connected on three 3-pointers.
FW-M senior guard Jason LaRock finished with 12 points.
Rugby closes its regular season against Benson County in Leeds on Thursday. The Indians finish against Thief River Falls (Minn.) on Saturday in Grand Forks.