BISMARCK -- There’s no defending a state title if a team doesn’t get back to the title game.

Linton-HMB took care of that little technicality on Friday with a 3-0 win over Thompson in the semifinals of the North Dakota state Class B volleyball tournament at the Bismarck Event Center.

Led by the play of all-staters Teegan Scherr and JayCee Richter, the Lions avenged an earlier loss to the Thompson Tommies – one of just two losses this season – in rather easy fashion, 25-21, 25-18, 25-18.

With the win, the Lions advance to Saturday’s title game against top-seeded Northern Cass.

Scherr was especially sharp with 12 kills and 18 digs, while Richter added eight kills, two aces and 12 of the Lions’ 77 digs.

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“It was definitely defense tonight,” Linton-HMB coach Jaime Richter said. “We just did not let a ball drop to the floor. The girls were relentless.”

Like all good fights between heavyweights, the early going was a feeling-out process. Scherr said the Lions’ strategy wasn’t to stick and move, but to hammer shots.

“Coach told us not to get frustrated and just keep hitting at them,” Scherr said. “They play a rotational defense so they leave the middle box open. If not, we just tried to hit around their blockers. Coach told us not to tip, they’re really good at digging tips, so just keep hitting at them and make them get frustrated.”

Kim Gefroh opened the match with one of the Lions’ six aces. She and Richter had two apiece. Game one featured a series of long rallies.

“Those big rallies, I felt that we capitalized on them,” Jaime Richter said. “I felt like we read balls really well and used all of our hitters.”

Linton-HMB led 16-13 when Thompson ran off four straight points to take the lead 17-16 on a hitting error by the Lions.

Linton led 22-21 before ShayLee Bosch scored on a kill, followed by two more from Scherr to take the first set.

The second set was close until the Lions scored seven of eight points to get some breathing room. A Gefroh block made it 14-7 and the Tommies never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

At one point, play got a little sloppy as the teams committed three straight service errors and the set actually ended on a Thompson service error.

Aces by Gefroh and Richter in the third set helped the Lions pull away. Their largest lead was 21-12, which helped the Lions withstand a small run late in the set. Linton-HMB’s final three points came on a Richter kill, a Gracie Schumacher tip and a Bosch block.

“Defense is important. Usually we don’t get a lot of blocks, but tonight we did,” Scherr said.

None was bigger than ShayLee Bosch’s match-clincher in the third set. ShayLee Bosch had two blocks, Lacey Bosch had three and Gefroh led the way with four.

Libero Cassie Hase was strong on the defensive side with 20 digs.

Jaime Richter said it’s been a different march to the brink of another title.

“Last year, nobody knew about us and nobody thought we could win because of our height,” Richter said. “This year, everybody assumed we would be good. This year we had to prove it.”

Linton proved it last year by winning its first state title 27-25, 25-20 and 26-24 over Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich 3-0.

Thompson was seeking its sixth championship and first since 2018. Instead, it will play for third place. The Tommies beat Linton-HMB 2-0 earlier this season.

“The difference was we knew how good their defense was. The first time we played them we were frustrated,” Richter said. “This time we stuck long rallies together and the girls were mentally prepared.”

Mya Krogstad and Summer Hegg led Thompson with 10 kills apiece. Bailey Munson was one of five Thompson players with double-figure digs with 19. Krogstad added 15 and Brenna Martin had 2.5 blocks.