Red River brings strong sophomore class into fifth-straight state tournament appearance
In their EDC semifinal win against West Fargo Sheyenne, Jocelyn Schiller put up 25 points along with five rebounds and four assists while Rylie McQuillan added 11 points including three 3-pointers and five assists. Schiller has been the leading scorer for Red River this year (21.3 ppg) and the emphasis of the opposition’s defensive gameplan
BISMARCK – After finishing first in the EDC, there was hope Red River would be able to follow up with a strong season. Still, the Roughriders opened this season with some uncertainties filling out the roster.
Now, being led by sophomores Jocelyn Schiller and Rylie McQuillan, they are in Bismarck for the Class A state tournament after a standout performance in the East Region tournament.
“With an inexperienced team, you start out unsure of what you might have,” head coach Kent Ripplinger said. “Then as the year goes on you see a little more growth. With this group they did a nice job picking up where they left off and making the adjustments we asked them to make.”
And the Riders responded, as Red River — the No. 2 East Region seed — opens the North Dakota state Class A girls basketball tournament Thursday afternoon against Bismarck, the No. 3 seed from the West Region.
In their East Region semifinal win against West Fargo Sheyenne, Schiller put up 25 points along with five rebounds and four assists while McQuillan added 11 points including three 3-pointers and five assists. Schiller has been the leading scorer for Red River this year (21.3 ppg) and the emphasis of the opposition’s defensive gameplan, but the strong supporting cast surrounding the guard has allowed her to shine.
Carrying over from last season, the Roughriders are a tough defense to face but this season they have been even more effective at transition defense. They rank second in the EDC in both steals (19.50 per game) and turnover margin (+12.3).
“It really starts on defense for us. If we do our jobs and put our best foot forward defensively, then it will transfer over to the offense,” said McQuillan.
McQuillan, who started last season off the varsity roster, has been the most effective shooter for the Riders. Her 41.7% from the field leads the team and her 37.4% from 3-point range is fifth in the East.
“She was an all-conference player this year and a C-squad JV player last year. She has really stepped it up and come a long way as far as improving goes. She’s been able to play multiple spots for us,” Ripplinger said.
Like Schiller, McQuillan also acknowledges her teammates’ role in her all-around surge this year.
“It has been very different for me this year and a lot of that has to do with my teammates,” she said. “They really have put me in the best position to succeed and together we have really done a great job of helping each other every game.”
Along with her, Hannah Litzinger and Ella Nowatzki have made a difference in pulling down rebounds.
“We had it clicking pretty good by the end of the season,” said Ripplinger. “Hannah was the unsung hero of our group. She has worked her tail off every game. She might break out for 10 or 12 points or she might break out for 13 or 14 rebounds.
They have all stepped up at different times of the year. We don’t drop off going to the bench and there are a lot of positives to that. The kids have really bought in to the role they have and they have been thriving in it.”
The main hindrance for Red River this year has been Fargo Davies–the No. 1 seed in the East. The Eagles bested them three different times this season, including a 78-34 EDC championship loss.
Moving into a state tournament setting where they will see the best-of-the-best, they have learned from those matchups with Davies to be at their best defensively no matter what.
“We have to be consistent defensively and we have to be able to do that back-to-back-to-back. There are no day breaks. We have to come out each game with our best defensively,” Ripplinger said.
Grand Forks Red River at a glance
Coach: Kent Ripplinger.
Record: 18-5, No. 2 East Region seed.
Quarterfinal opponent: Bismarck High, 18-4. Game is set for approximately 3 p.m. Thursday at the Bismarck Event Center.
Top scorers: Soph. Jocelyn Schiller 21.3 ppg, soph. Rylie McQuillan 10.2 ppg, soph. Hannah Litzinger 7.6 ppg
Top rebounders: Litzinger 132, Schiller 94
State tournament history: Red River is making a fifth-consecutive appearance at the state tournament. Last championship appearance was 1992 and their last title was 1988.
Coach Ripplinger says: “With an inexperienced team you start out unsure of what you might have. Then as the year goes on you see a little more growth. With this group they did a nice job picking up where they left off and making the adjustments we asked them to make.”