Rugby pulls away in second half to upend DLB in the first round, 58-42

Alex Eisen/MDN Rugby's Trace Goven (left) takes a free throw against Des Lacs-Burlington Monday in the first round of the Region 6 tournament in Minot.

In a showdown between junior sharpshooters Jaden Hamilton and Dante Gunville, the supporting cast behind Hamilton was enough to carry the Rugby boys basketball team to the Region 6 tournament semifinals.

The District 11 No. 1-seeded Rugby Panthers (19-3) outscored District 12 No. 4-seeded Des Lacs-Burlington (14-10) by 13 points in the second half for a 58-42 win Monday evening at the Minot State Dome.

“Our offense was a little bit stagnant in the first half, but in the second half our 1-3-1 (zone) caused them a few problems and that got us out in transition,” Rugby coach Mike Santjer said. “We might be a little picky — the first half we didn’t do some things as well as we should — but any time you can get to the regional tournament and hold a team to 42 points, we will take it.”

Starting with a bang, Hamilton threw down a fast break two-handed dunk for the first points of the game.

It was the first of three dunks for Hamilton. The 6-foot-5 forward shot 12-for-20 from the floor for a game-high 26 points.

Alex Eisen/MDN Rugby's Kevin Vetsch (11) drives past DLB's Dante Gunville (10) and Scott Drovdal (24) in a Region 6 tournament first round game in Minot.

“We were just getting to the paint,” Hamilton said. “We finished layups and kicked it out when it was there. Driving into the middle was very beneficial for us.”

At the other end of the court, Gunville scored 13 of DLB’s 21 points in the first half. The only other Laker to make a field goal/score points in the first half was center Scott Drovdal.

“Our biggest problem was our inability to get the ball to the open man,” DLB head coach Tyler Ystaas said. “Our execution was pretty poor. We just had a hard time getting set up and running what we wanted to run… When we are run our offense correctly, then we are going to be more balanced. That’s what we needed.”

Following a Gunville 3-pointer, DLB only trailed 24-21 at halftime.

The Panthers picked it up in the second half, starting the third quarter with a 12-5 run.

Drovdal, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, went down with an ankle injury during that stretch and wasn’t able to continue. Losing his size inside was a huge blow for the Lakers.

“Scott (Drovdal) goes down, and he has a bad ankle to begin with, and he re-injuries that ankle,” Ystaas said. “That is kind of when they pulled away. We missed his presence inside.”

Using an effective 1-3-1 zone and a harassing man-to-man defense, Rugby flustered DLB into turnovers for some easy transition buckets. Gunville and the Lakers weren’t given any easy points.

“(Gunville) has blitzed us when we saw him in the regular season and then when we saw him last year at the dome,” Santjer said. “We contested a ton of his shots. The ones he did make, we were still in his face. He made some tough shots.”

A put back by Hamilton at the end of the third-quarter buzzer had Rugby up 40-28.

While Gunville no longer had Drovdal to lean on, Rugby had a lethal secondary scorer option in Trace Goven. The junior guard was able to get in the lane and finish at the rim or pull up to sink jumpers. Goven racked up 16 points and swiped six steals.

Rugby’s Kevin Vetsch also chipped in five second-half points to finish with seven points for the game.

“Sometimes we didn’t make that extra pass,” Santjer said about what improvements still need to be made. “We didn’t share the ball as well as we usually do. And we have to play fast. We don’t work very well when it’s a slow-paced game. The second half was a lot more of our tempo.”

Gunville’s 20-point night wasn’t enough to prevent the Lakers’ season from ending, 58-42.

“This was a group that never gave up,” Ystaas said. “We weren’t perfect by any means, but we battled to the end.”

Rugby will meet District 12 No. 2-seeded Our Redeemer’s in the regional semifinals this evening at 7:30 p.m.

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

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