Our Redeemer’s shocks Rugby, 59-58, advances to Region 6 championship

Al Christianson/Special to the MDN Our Redeemer’s sophomore Levi Weekley (33) launches a deep two-point shot over the outstretched hands of Rugby’s Jaden Hamilton (13) during the Knights’ 59-58 win over the Panthers on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Region 6 tournament at the Minot State Dome.

This isn’t the same Knights team from the regular season.

Just 39 days ago, the Our Redeemer’s boys basketball team found itself looking up at the scoreboard in frustration as the final buzzer sounded. The score read 76-47 in favor of the Rugby Panthers, marking the Knights’ worst loss of the year.

The scoreboard looked a lot different Tuesday night at the Minot State Dome, though, as No. 2-seeded Our Redeemer’s from District 12 defied the odds and completed a 59-58 upset over District 11’s No. 1-seeded Rugby in the semifinals of the Region 6 tournament.

“We remembered that loss, and we had a chip on our shoulder,” ORCS freshman Zach Hendrickson said. “We knew we weren’t going to let that happen again. Just like (the District 12 tournament), we believed in ourselves and we came out on top.”

The Knights leaned on their dynamic duo of Matt and Zach Hendrickson early on. Zach got the ball rolling with a pair of 3-pointers, and Matt capped off the quarter with a long-range bomb of his own.

The senior pulled up from way downtown and banked in his triple with just 15 seconds left in the first quarter to give Our Redeemer’s an 18-15 lead at the break.

Zach carried his hot hand into the second quarter, as the freshman added three more triples to his stat line. The final deep ball came with 3:10 remaining to push the Knights’ lead to 30-24 – their biggest lead thus far.

“We played with heart,” ORCS sophomore Levi Weekley said. “We played with nothing to lose, and we came out firing.”

That’s when Rugby kicked it into high gear. Sophomore Isaiah Bundy-Smith started the rally with a swift cut to rim for the easy bucket, and junior Trace Goven made it a 30-29 game by nailing a 3-pointer with 2:10 left until halftime.

Both teams went scoreless until 15 seconds remained. That’s when Rugby’s Jaden Hamilton worked his way into the paint and banked in the close-range jumper to give his team a 31-30 edge.

But the Panthers weren’t finished. After his team got a defensive stop, Rugby’s Devan Michels got the ball at his own three-point line with time winding down and launched a prayer.

The ball sailed across three quarters of the court and miraculously found its target as the buzzer sounded to send the Panthers into halftime with plenty of momentum and a 34-30 lead.

“We told our guys it wasn’t going to be easy,” ORCS head coach Brody Bosch said. “Rugby is a great team. We told them to stick out the run, stay in the game and in the final minutes we’d get ours.”

With the game in danger of slipping away, Weekley restored order for the Knights.

After nailing a two-foot jumper earlier in the quarter, the 6-foot-5 center got some space from beyond the arc and sank his second triple of the night to give Our Redeemer’s a 44-43 lead with 1:10 on the clock.

“When (Weekley) can spread the ball like that, it’s huge,” Bosch said. “We have five guys who can all give something to us, and he was big for us tonight.”

The two teams entered the fourth quarter knotted at 44. Zach Hendrickson finally gave the Knights some breathing room with 2:28 by nailing a mid-range jumper to push his team’s lead to 57-51.

The six-point edge didn’t last long, though, as Rugby scored four quick points off a pair of free throws by senior Kevin Vetsch and a close-range fader by Bundy-Smith that made it a 57-55 game with 1:30 remaining.

The Knights clung to the slim advantage down the stretch, but Rugby got one last chance to sneak away with a win as it trailed 59-58 with the ball and just 5.9 seconds on the clock.

Bosch’s message to his team in the huddle was simple.

“He told us, ‘Play great D and rebound,'” Weekley said. “‘Play defense and rebound.’ That’s all he said.”

The Panthers inbounded the ball from half court and found Vetsch on the right shoulder of the three-point line.

Our Redeemer’s sophomore William Sanders immediately applied pressure and forced the senior into a desperate heave from 20 feet out. The ball veered left, smacked the backboard and fell right into the hands of Matt Hendrickson with .3 seconds left.

The senior got fouled and missed the one-and-one free throw on the other end, but it didn’t matter. The buzzer quickly sounded, and the Knights’ bench rushed onto the court to celebrate their 59-58 victory.

Three Rugby players finished with double-digit points in the loss: Hamilton (14), Bundy-Smith (12) and Goven (10).

Zach Hendrickson led the Knights with 25 points, while Matt Hendrickson recorded 15 points and Weekley added 11 points.

With the win, Our Redeemer’s secures a date with District 12’s No. 3-seeded Bishop Ryan on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the championship game. The winner will advance to the state tournament.

The Knights will look to fend off what’s sure to be a hungry Lions team that suffered a 52-51 loss to Our Redeemer’s in the semifinals of the District 12 tournament on Feb. 23.

“(The District tournament win) gives us a lot of confidence,” Bosch said. “Now we have to get ready because we have a Bishop Ryan team that’s not happy about last time we played, so it’s going to be a tough game. We have to be ready to go.”

Two players that have a little extra on the line are the Hendrickson brothers. With this season being Matt’s senior year, the duo will look to extend their time on the court together with a victory.

“It would mean so much to me (to go to state), especially, because I get to play with my older brother for his last year,” Zach Hendrickson said. “Getting three extra games would be a blessing.”

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.