Second-half surge lifts Velva to Region 6 final over Bottineau

Al Christianson/Special to the MDN Velva senior Sydney Larson takes a shot Tuesday evening against Bottineau in a Region 6 semifinal game at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.

Unable to get into an offensive rhythm in the first half, the Velva High School girls basketball team turned to junior sharpshooting guard Hope Brewer in the third quarter and bruising junior forward Rachel Mack in the fourth.

Brewer made five 3-pointers in the second half to reach a game-high 17 points and Mack recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, as Velva turned a three-point halftime lead into a 47-25 victory over Bottineau Tuesday evening in a Region 6 tournament semifinal game.

The District 11 No. 2-seeded Aggies (19-5) shot 21.4 percent in the first half to 65 percent in the second half to outpace the District 11 No. 4-seeded Stars (12-12).

“Defensively, we had them in a little bit of trouble with our press,” Velva coach Chris Braaten said. “We got a few turnovers and forced the tempo on them a little bit and rushed them into some shots.”

There were three lead changes and eight different scorers in the first quarter. Bottineau edged ahead 10-8 after made free throws by sophomore Ashtyn Allard and senior Sydnie Nelson, plus a field goal made by junior Tasha Graber.

Senior Tayler Troska made the first and only basket for Bottineau in the second quarter. While senior Greta Florence pushed the Aggies into the lead with five straight points.

A no-look pass by senior backcourt partner Sydney Larson created a fast break layup and a football style pass from junior Rachel Mack setup Florence to get fouled on another fast break layup.

Mack had Velva up 15-12 at halftime after a finish under the shadow of the rim.

“(Velva) got going,” Bottineau coach Michael Vandal said. “When you sit in a 2-3 zone, you hope a team doesn’t get on. Unfortunately, when they did start to knock down a couple, we didn’t do a good job of identifying where that girl was and then they started to get some stuff inside too.”

Brewer hit the first 3-pointer of the game 1:17 into the third period. The next possession down the floor, she put down another.

Velva had finally found its go-to scorer.

“(Hope) Brewer sure lit it up for us and extended our lead,” Braaten said. “We need to have somebody to hit some shots from the outside. They were just sitting back up to that point because we didn’t have an outside shot fall. Sometimes it just takes that first one to break the ice.”

Bottineau’s Morgan Haerer made the Stars only triple, out of nine attempts, to keep the deficit in single digits at 28-19.

But, it didn’t last.

Florence, Kaitlyn Lund and Mack — right before the third period buzzer — scored to slowly put the game out of reach, 34-19.

Mack added seven quick points at the start of the fourth quarter, and another Brewer 3-pointer helped seal the 47-25 victory.

Sophie Nelson had a team-high nine points for the Stars, while Jaclyn Hanson grabbed 10 rebounds.

Velva moves on to the Region 6 championship game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Rugby (21-2).

The Panthers held off the Aggies, 54-39, 11 days ago for the District 11 tournament championship.

Bottineau wraps up its season with a regional third-place game Thursday at 6 p.m. against Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood (15-9).

The Aggies haven’t reached the state tournament since they were crowned state champions in 1998 and Rugby just ended a 40-year state tournament drought when they last went in 2016.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.