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Glenburn downs Velva 59-45

Ryan Ladika/MDN Glenburn’s McKenna Rolland with possession of the ball during the first half of their Region 6 semifinal at the Minot Auditorium on Tuesday. The senior led her squad with 19 points during Glenburn's 59-45 win.

The Glenburn Panthers and the Velva Aggies were both one step closer to reaching the North Dakota girls basketball state tournament following their respective victories Tuesday evening. Serving as the top two seeds in their portion of the bracket, the two schools clashed for a chance at the Region 6 championship Thursday.

Glenburn had wrapped up a convincing 70-38 victory over the Westhope-Newburg Sioux Monday, led by McKenna Rolland’s 25 points. The Panthers allowed only 18 Sioux points in the second half of their quarterfinal matchup to cruise to the easy win.

Velva had a much tougher time with its first round opponent, as the Our Redeemer’s Knights kept the pressure on the Aggies until the final seconds of Velva’s 37-32 win. Sophie Hackman led the Aggies in the low-scoring affair with nine points.

The Panthers, who also took the top spot in the District 12 tournament Feb. 13, proved worthy of their top seed once more from the opening tipoff.

Neither team was able to crack the scoreboard until just under two minutes had elapsed, but Reagan Hildre finally kicked off the scoring with a three-point shot accompanied by a loud cheer from the Aggies faithful. The Aggies played a handful of impressive defensive possessions from the start, and after a forced shot-clock violation, Olivia Passa added two more.

The Panthers would not be held down for long. Lorelei McIver kicked off a lengthy scoring run with two points and a made free throw after being fouled, getting her squad on the scoreboard for the first time.

Rolland and Nadia Post took over from there. Post drained a triple and scored two more around three Velva points from Rylee Frantsen and Madison Effertz, and Rolland did the rest.

The senior made a two-point shot on which she was fouled, made the free throw, and made two more from the charity stripe with a minute left in the first quarter. The score remained 13-8 until the buzzer sounded, and Glenburn brought its five point lead into the second eight minutes of play.

Glenburn continued its impressive run on the other side of the break in play. Sophie Hackman scored three Velva points first, but DeAnna Heinze made a three-pointer on the other in response. McIver made her two tries from the line, as did Sophie Bachmeier, and Rolland capped off the 16-6 run with two more points, and the panthers held a healthy 22-11 lead.

Frantsen halted the run with a deep three-point shot, but Velva was able to score just four more points the rest of the quarter and entered halftime trailing 28-18.

The offensive fireworks were kicked up a notch on both sides in the third quarter, as neither team made more than two unanswered baskets. With four minutes and 46 seconds left, Glenburn still held their advantage at 36-26.

The back-and-forth theme continued through the remainder of the quarter, when Passa made two tries at the line, followed by a triple from McIver. Valerie Stevens earned a trip to the free throw line and made both attempts for Velva, and Rolland and McIver capped off the offensive quarter with four more, and the Panthers led 43-30 entering the final eight minutes.

The contest started to get away from Velva in the final period, as Glenburn opened the quarter on another scoring run, this time outscoring its opponent 8-5 with five minutes and 23 seconds left.

A beautiful euro step executed by Passa was answered by McIver pulling a move that would make Randy Moss proud on the other side, snatching the ball from over top and behind an Aggies player and scoring two more to open up the lead even further at 53-37.

The Panthers held their lead the rest of the way, and eventually prevailed by a 59-45 final tally. Rolland led the Panthers in scoring for the second consecutive night, this time scoring 19 to pace her team. McIver and Post each scored 13 to hit double digits as well. Passa’s 17 points led the Aggies.

Glenburn will meet the Rugby Panthers in the Region 6 title game Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Minot Auditorium.

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