Red River guards mature as girls basketball season progresses

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Red River guard Ella Fosse recovers a loose ball as West Fargo Sheyenne's Brittani Huseth (5) and Jaycee Clemens (23) try to strip it from her during an East Region quarterfinals basketball matchup in Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Close wasn’t good for Grand Forks Red River.

During the regular season, the Roughriders girls basketball team played five games that were decided by five or fewer points, or went into overtime. Red River won just one of those games.

That trend has reversed in the postseason. In the East Region tournament, Red River beat West Fargo Sheyenne 52-50 in the quarterfinals and Fargo Shanley 60-59 in the semifinals to qualify for the North Dakota Class A state high school tournament, which begins Thursday, March 12, in Fargo.

The Riders wrapped up the regional with a one-point loss to Fargo Davies in the championship game.

The struggles in close games wasn’t a concern, Red River coach Kent Ripplinger said.


“We were beating ourselves,’’ Ripplinger said. “It was bad turnovers, unforced errors, bad decisions.

“It was about growth. We graduated kids who were the ones who carried us through those close situations. Our new kids have gotten better throughout the year.’’

The semifinal win against Shanley was a sample of that growth. The Riders held a 16-point lead in the second half, but had to hold off Shanley’s rally to qualify for state.

“That’s the kind of game we might have lost earlier in the year,’’ Ripplinger said. “We had to figure out how to finish games. And we’ve gotten better at that.’’

A big factor in the player development was replacing KenadiySteffan and Jadyn Sondrol, a pair of all-conference picks as seniors last season. They had the majority of the team’s ballhandling and playmaking duties.

Claire Leach, a top backcourt reserve last season, and newcomer Ella Fosse have stepped in as starters at guard. Their top backup is eighth-grader Jocelyn Schiller.

“We knew there were big shoes to fill,’’ Leach said. “We were maybe a little nervous at first. But when you’re thrown into the deep end, you have to learn to swim.

“We’ve definitely grown. We’ve worked a lot on staying calm and keeping our poise in close games. It's definitely paid off.’’


The backcourt is new. There’s also been a shift in the offense. There is a little more emphasis on the frontcourt, where 6-foot senior Shelby Frank (11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and her 5-11 backup Jade Azure (6.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) both are shooting better than 50 percent from the field.

“They’re both tough to defend inside,’’ Ripplinger said. “We look to them. Every team is double-teaming our posts down low. But when we’re good, we have good balance.’’

Other top scorers are Alex Page (9.8 ppg), Leach (9.5 ppg) and Jasmine Sondrol (8.7 ppg).

The strength of the team is defense.

The Riders allow an average of only 47.8 points a game. They have strong defensive numbers -- 15.7 steals and 5.9 blocked shots a game.

“We’ve been able to control the tempo of games with our pressure defense,’’ Ripplinger said. “And Shelby is a difference maker on defense. She blocks a lot of shots (2.6 per game) and forces players to alter shots around the basket.’’

Red River at a glance

Coach: Kent Ripplinger.

Record: 17-7.


State tournament opener: The Roughriders, the No. 2 seed from the East Region, play West Region No. 3 seed Mandan at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 12, in the Class A state tournament quarterfinals in Fargo.

Starting lineup: 5-5 jr. Ella Fosse (3.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.1 rpg, 2.6 spg), 6-0 jr. Jasmine Sondrol (8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.2 apg), 5-4 sr. Claire Leach (9.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.5 spg), 5-11 jr. Alex Page (9.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.2 apg), 6-0 sr. Shelby Frank (11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.6 bpg).

Top reserves: 5-11 jr. Kaylee Lancaster (4 ppg, 3.9 rpg), 5-8 sr. Grace Kemnitz (2.5 ppg), 5-4 8th-grade Jocelyn Schiller (3.8 ppg, 2.1 apg), 5-11 jr. Jade Azure (6.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg), 5-11 sr. Ashlea Lindseth (1.8 ppg).

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