Grafton pulls away from Rugby for state quarterfinal win in Class B girls basketball tournament
GRAND FORKS — Jen Brossart describes defending Grafton as a pick-your-poison situation.
“They can bang it down low and score,’’ Brossart, the Rugby High School girls basketball coach, said. “Sag your defense inside and they hit the outside shots.’’
It was the inside game that got to Rugby on Thursday, March 5, during a critical stretch. Grafton pulled away with a big close to the third quarter and scored a 61-45 win against the Panthers in the quarterfinals of the North Dakota Class B girls high school basketball tournament at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Rugby was within 26-20 of the Spoilers after a Sarah Blessum free throw 2:24 into the second half. But Grafton answered with 10 straight points, the start of a 14-5 run to close the third quarter and take command.
Five of the seven Grafton field goals in the run came from under the basket. None were from farther out than 12 feet.
The Spoiler coaches’ scouting report worked.
“We saw that they played behind post players at times on defense,’’ Grafton coach Laurie Sieben said. “We felt that was an advantage for us, that we could get inside touches to finish around the rim. Our girls did a good job of finding our posts.’’
Freshman 6-foot-3 starting center Walker Demers and 5-10 reserve Anna Carignan each had a pair of close-range baskets in the third-quarter run.
“We were open down low,’’ Walker said. “We go out every game and test the waters until we find something that works. Our height was working. At halftime we talked about spreading things out better. That opened things up inside.’’
Walker finished with a double double with 11 points and 15 rebounds, leading the Spoilers to a 35-26 advantage on the boards. “There’s no magic to rebounding,’’ Sieben said. “We emphasize it and the kids work at it. We had energy and effort.’’
Grafton had 17 second-chance points off offensive rebounds.
“We gave up too many rebounds,’’ Brossart said. “That killed us. We were giving them 2-3 shots on a lot of possessions. You can’t let that happen against a team like Grafton.
“I was happy with our fourth quarter. We were getting to the basket more. But we dug ourselves into too deep of a hole.’’
Grafton led 40-25 after three quarters and built its advantage to as many as 17 in the final eight minutes. Rugby got no closer than 11 in the fourth quarter.
Julia Dusek had 15 points and Carlee Sieben 14 to lead the balanced offense for the 22-3, second-seeded Spoilers.
Rugby, the state runner-up last season, was paced by Brooke Blessum and Mykell Heidlebaugh, each with 13 points. The loss dropped Rugby to 21-4.