Climbing in the ranks

Rugby girls basketball dominating opponents

Ashton Gerard/MDN Rugby junior Anni Stier (25) is guarded by Shiloh Christian's Brittan Grubb (31) in a high school girls basketball game Dec. 28 at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.

The Rugby girls basketball team has been off to an explosive start so far this season with a record of 13-2. From their 13 wins, their average margin of victory is 36 points, which has earned the Panthers the No. 7 ranking in the state in the lastest Class B girls basketball poll.

Although Rugby head coach Jen Brossart would like to see closer point spreads, she’s always encouraging the team to go out and be the best ball players they can be while in turn being respectful to their opponents.

Both of Rugby’s losses have been the opposite of their success. The games were complete battles. Their first loss came from Bishop Ryan in Minot on Dec. 8. They fell by three points with a final score of 49-46.

“We got in foul trouble against Bishop Ryan which really took us out of our game plan,” Brossart said. “Foolish turnovers and and missed opportunities are things you learn from.”

At the time Rugby played Shiloh Christian, the Skyhawks were rated No. 2 in the state for Class B girls basketball. Brossart said the girls had 23 turnovers and numerous missed shot opportunities. But the Rugby girls were able to learn from this and still held their own against the Skyhawks, losing with a final score of 45-44.

“After having played (Shiloh Christian) … the girls realized they could play with anybody in the state on any given night,” Brossart said. “Playing teams like Shiloh Christian or Four Winds (Minnewaukan) gives us the opportunity to get outside of our Region and find out how we stack up against other teams.”

So, what has contributed to the team’s success?

Brossart says the girls put in many hours of work during the offseason and play together during the summer to refine their skills. There is film available for the girls to look back on their games and Brossart is very open about giving feedback and strategies to change up their play.

Most of the team has also been playing together for the past three years. The team is comprised of three seniors, four juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen. With nearly three years of playing together, the team has grown to know each others’ tendencies very well.

“They know each others’ strengths and they know each others’ weaknesses and they play that to an advantage,” Brossart said. “Their experience has helped our younger girls grow as the season has gone on and has really helped them broaden their basketball skills as a team.”

The three seniors on the team-Tristin Lunde, Madison Uhlenkamp and Whitney Gronvold-have exemplified leadership both on and off the court according to Brossart.

Uhlenkamp suffered an ACL injury her freshman year and has been working hard since to overcome and become one of the best centers in Class B. She is also one of the leading scorers for the Rugby Panthers.

“She is small for a post player, but her strength and her smarts help her play that position very well,” Brossart said.

Lunde is someone Brossart noticed really stepped up as a leader this year. Lunde can play any position on the floor when asked and has been gaining confidence in her game as the year goes on.

“Whitney Gronvold is the hardest working player that I have ever had the privilege to coach,” Brossart said.

During practice, Gronvold is constantly pushing the limits and contributes every time she steps on the floor during a game and always has a smile on her face while doing it. Brossart said she is a great example to the younger girls of what hard work can accomplish.

Over the course of the season, the Panthers have had seven different girls step up to lead in scoring. There have also been times where the bench has stepped up, making key plays for the team to either gain the lead or secure the win.

“That is what makes this team so special and one of the most well-rounded teams I have had the opportunity to coach,” Brossart said.

While they’ve had a great season so far, one thing that haunts the team is turnovers.

“We play an up-tempo style game and at times (the team) gets going a little too fast for their own good,” Brossart said.

The Rugby defense makes up for these turnover mistakes. Brossart said the girls like to play defense and really thrive on the defensive end. Of course there have been times this season where turnovers have cost them the game, but their defense has been what keeps them just at an arm’s reach.

Overall, Brossart said there’s more work to be done with the team going into the Region and State Tournaments. As of the eighth state rankings, the Panthers rank seventh with the only other Minot-area team, Des Lacs-Burlington, ranking behind them at eighth.

So far, the team has been on a six-game win streak since their Dec. 28 loss to Shiloh Christian. Can the girls hold their win streak into the tournament season?

The Rugby Panthers return to the court today to face Velva at home at 7:15 p.m.