Rugby ready for state

No. 3 Panthers gearing up for showdown with Killdeer

Photo courtesy of Al Christianson/Special to the MDN Rugby's Tristin Lunde (12) puts up a shot during a high school girls basketball game earlier this season at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.

The Rugby Panthers girls basketball team is one day away from the statewide spotlight of the North Dakota Class B state tournament.

Rugby, the No. 3 seed in the bracket, faces unseeded Killdeer in the state quarterfinals at 2:45 p.m. Thursday at the MSU Dome. If victorious, the Panthers face the winner of No. 2 Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich and Thompson on Friday. This is Rugby’s first state tournament appearance since 2016.

“Seven of our girls played extensive minutes in the state tournament two years ago, so they should know what to expect,” Rugby coach Jen Brossart said. “But at the same time, I don’t know any player who doesn’t have at least some adrenaline and nerves going into a state tournament. For the younger girls that haven’t been there, there might be some bright lights right away, but they’ll get over it. We have to get ready to play and prepare for the last three games of our season.”

When Rugby entered the Region 6 Tournament, several key starters played through injuries. But those haven’t lingered into this week. The Panthers eventually beat Velva for the Region 6 title, 53-46 on Feb. 22.

“The girls are at full swing in practice,” Brossart said. “I think we’re working to get a good defensive mindset. We’re going to put it all out there and see where the chips fall.”

The Panthers are led by senior forward Madison Uhlenkamp, who leads the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game and also contributes seven rebounds and three steals per night. Uhlenkamp will play collegiately next season at Dakota College of Bottineau.

“She’s a great asset to our program,” Brossart said. “She’s always helping out the younger girls. She spent a lot of time getting stronger from last year and putting herself in a better position to succeed. She may be a tad undersized from her position but she plays really good defense. Obviously she’s going to play in college next year so she’s going to have to shoot from the outside, and she’s made an effort to get better there as well.”

Other players averaging double figures for the Panthers are junior guard Karsyn Hager (11.4 points per game) and junior guard Anni Stier (12.2).

Meanwhile, Killdeer earned its state berth by beating Bowman County for the Region 7 crown. From Brossart’s scout, senior forward Trae Murray and senior guard Sydney Andersen are key players to watch for Killdeer.

“Killdeer is quite a bit like us,” Brossart said. “They’re athletic and lengthy, we don’t have a lot of height, but they do. They love to extend out and hit the 3-point shot. We’re going to have to watch the three point shooters and hopefully not allow too much from that end.”

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge