The TGU girls basketball team picked a good day to play one of its best defensive games of the season.
The Titans forced 24 turnovers and limited Berthold to 26.7 percent shooting as District 11's top seed advanced to the Region 6 championship game with a 38-32 victory Tuesday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium. TGU plays top-ranked Bishop Ryan on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Magic City Campus for a spot in the state tournament. The teams didn't meet during the regular season.
"We've all been playing since eighth grade and we've only made it to regionals a couple times," TGU senior guard Akesha Juarez said. "We're finally getting to the championship game and it feels great."
TGU junior McKayla Thompson is pressured by Berthold’s Cassidy Limke as she brings the ball upcourt during the Region 6 semifinals Tuesday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
TGU’s Mattie Schmitt recorded another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
TGU's 2-3 zone gave Berthold fits all game. All five Bomber starters committed at least four turnovers and their top scorers, seniors Bethany Limke and Hannah Hornberger, combined to shoot 5-for-28. Limke didn't play when the teams met during the regular season - a 49-39 TGU victory. She finished with nine points and five rebounds.
"I just think we played pretty solid defense on them," TGU coach Malcolm Marcus said. "Our zone defense seemed to work. Anytime you can hold somebody to low 30s, it should be good for you."
The Titans led throughout, but both teams struggled on the offensive end. After putting up 38 points against Our Redeemer's Christian School on Monday, Schmitt went the first 5:42 without a point. Her first bucket gave TGU a 9-5 lead before Limke hit Berthold's only 3-pointer of the game.
Berthold junior forward Madison Erickson had the arduous task of defending Schmitt in the paint. Erickson, along with help from Hornberger limited Schmitt to 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. She also grabbed 12 rebounds.
"Kudos to our Maddie," Berthold coach Kayla Lambrecht said. "She worked her butt off all 32 minutes. The other girls helped her out and she did a heck of a good job."
Erickson tallied a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
With Schmitt receiving the double-team treatment the majority of the contest, Juarez and freshman guard Angie Anderson provided the bulk of the scoring from outside the lane. Juarez knocked down a pair of 3s in the second quarter to give the Titans a 15-10 lead late in the second quarter.
"Akesha struggled last night, but boy did she step up tonight and hit a couple big shots," Marcus said. "It opened things up for us a little bit. She bounced back and had a nice game."
TGU led 17-12 at halftime.
Anderson scored eight of her 11 points in the second half. Her second bucket of the half opened an 8-0 run spanning the first 4:36 of the fourth quarter to give the Titans a 35-24 lead. Two free throws by Hornberger cut TGU's lead to nine before a freebie by Juarez pushed the Titans' advantage back to double digits.
The Bombers made one push in the closing minutes, going on a 6-0 run to get with 36-32. But two free throws by Anderson in the closing seconds sealed TGU's place in the championship game.
"It kinda made you nervous, but we knew we could do it," Anderson said.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.