MINOT – The Grant County girls basketball team will make a 190-mile bus trip from Minot to Elgin today.
And what a fun bus ride it will be.
Grant County outlasted Killdeer 53-44 Saturday night at the Minot State University Dome to capture its first Class B state championship. Seniors Taylor Roehl and Alexis Bentz combined for 31 points for the Coyotes, who finished 22-5 after winning for the 14th time in 15 games.
“This is so incredible. I can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” said Roehl, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “We worked so hard all year and all of that work paid off. I’m so happy for our team and our fans.”
Roehl and Bentz, a pair of 5-foot-10 forwards, both stuffed the stat sheet in the final game of their sparkling high school careers. Roehl scored a game-high 18 points, collected nine rebounds, dished out two assists and made two steals. Bentz had 13 points, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
And they stepped up at crunch time, combining for 22 of Grant County’s 33 second-half points.
“That’s what you expect from your seniors. You expect them to step up in big games and carry the team,” said Grant County coach Nicole Bentz. “They did that all year, and they stepped up so many times since they started playing varsity basketball when they were eighth-graders. They’re seniors and they’re state champions. What a way to go out.”
Sophomore Camryn Alt added nine points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots; sophomore Coral Alt six points, five rebounds and four steals, and freshman Isabelle Boyer four points, four rebounds and four thefts.
“It was a team effort again. Everybody contributed in some way,” coach Bentz said. “It was that way this whole tournament. You don’t win championships without everyone doing their part.”
The championship game was a grind-it-out affair from the start. The lead changed hands six times in a tight first half that ended 20-19 in Grant County’s favor.
The Coyotes led 28-23 with 4:18 remaining in the third quarter, but an 8-2 run -- capped off by a Sydney Andersen 3-pointer -- put the Cowboys on top 31-30 with 2:07 left. However, Grant County regained the lead on a Camryn Alt basket, and after a Killdeer turnover, Coral Alt went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line to give the Coyotes a 34-31 advantage. Later, Camryn Alt scored inside and Grant County carried a 36-31 lead into the final eight minutes.
Bentz opened the fourth quarter with a basket, and from there, the Cowboys could get no closer than five points – 38-33, 40-35, 42-37 and 47-42.
A Bridgette Reiss basket with 4:15 remaining made it 42-37, but the Coyotes answered 22 seconds later with two Bentz free throws. It stayed 44-37 until Roehl fed Boyer for a layup with 2:58 left.
The Cowboys trimmed the deficit to five for a fourth time in the half, 47-42, with one minute left, but a Boyer basket and a Camryn Alt free throw gave the Coyotes a 50-42 lead with just 32 seconds to play.
“It was a grind, just as we expected,” coach Bentz said. “We’re two very similar teams and both of us knew we had to battle the whole way. We definitely earned this one.”
Like Grant County, Killdeer made its first appearance in a girls basketball state championship game.
“The girls did the best they could. I’m very proud of the effort and I’m proud of what they accomplished this season,” said Killdeer coach Ashlee Viveros. “We played hard and we had our chances, but Grant County played better and deserved to win.”
Trae Murray and Andersen, both seniors, led the Cowboys with 19 and 14 points, respectively. Andersen also had 12 rebounds and Murray 11.
The Medina-Pingree-Buchanan Thunder didn’t live up to their No. 1 seed, but they did close out a memorable 2017-18 campaign on a high note Saturday night.
The Thunder, who dropped a tough 49-47 decision to Grant County in Friday night’s semifinals, captured third-place honors with a 41-36 victory over the Thompson Tommies, putting the finishing touches on a 24-3 season and their first state tournament appearance.
“Everyone who gets to the state tournament hopes to play in the state championship game. We missed our chance, but winning our last game was really important to us,” said Halle Uehran, MPB’s 6-foot-3 senior center. “We won two games here and that’s something to be proud of. We had a great year together and if feels so good to end on a high note.”
The Thunder started well, leading 14-4 at the end of the first quarter after closing out the frame on an 8-0 run that included 3-pointers by Lauren Moser and Amanda Allen.
Megan Moser later made it 16-4 with a pair of free throws, and after the Tommies got within eight, 16-8, Jadyn Pollert and Uehran scored back-to-back to extend the Thunder’s lead to 12, 20-8. MPB led 26-13 at the intermission after Taylor Sabinash scored four unanswered points in the final minute of the first half.
“We played a very good half, especially on defense,” Uehran said. “We came ready to play and it showed.”
The Tommies didn’t fold. After the Thunder upped their lead to 14, 28-14, Thompson’s Mackenzie Hughes outscored MPB 9-3 to pull her team within eight, 31-23. Kailen Dolleslager went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe to make it 31-25 with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter, and later, Taylor Zak’s three-point play with 15.4 seconds left trimmed the deficit to five, 33-28.
Both offenses struggled in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, but two Dolleslager free throws with 3:30 remaining put the Tommies on top 34-33. The teams traded baskets over the next 1:49 before the Thunder went on a game-ending 6-0 run. Sabinash started the run with a basket with 1:20 left, and after a Uehran block, Uehran made two free throws to give the Thunder a 39-36 lead with 41.3 seconds remaining. Gracie Bohl made a steal six seconds later, and with 26.6 seconds left, Uehran again went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe to make it a five-point game. Thompson went on to miss its last three shots from the floor.
The Thunder held an opponent under 50 points for the 26th time this season, and under 40 for the 20th time.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense. We held a lot of teams under 40 this year,” Uehran said. “Our offense had good days and bad days, but our defense was always there.”
Uehran led the Thunder with 12 points and six blocks.
Hughes topped the Tommies with 16.
Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich was dominant in the fifth place game, rolling to a 56-33 victory over Kindred.
After trailing 4-0 early, the Cardinals reeled off 15 straight points – seven by Jordyn Worley. The Vikings trimmed the deficit to seven, 15-8, but a 16-0 LAEM run made it 31-8 midway through the second quarter. The half ended 39-12, with Callie Ronningen (16), Worley (12) and Kaitlynn Scherr (11) accounting for all 39 points. Ronningen, Worley and Scherr finished with 18, 17 and 11, respectively. Arynn Crockett scored eight the Cardinals’ other 10 points.
Ronningen (7) and Worley (6) also combined for 13 of LAEM’s 21 steals.
Abby Duchscherer led the Vikings with 13 points.
Four Rugby players scored in double figures as the Panthers downed Watford City 64-44 in the seventh place game.
Anni Stier scored a team-high 16 points, while Madison Uhlenkamp, Karsyn Hager and Maria Blessum added 14, 13 and 10, respectively.
The Panthers broke it open with a 10-0 second-half run that turned a 36-32 lead into a 46-32 advantage. Maria Blessum finished off the run with a four-point play in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
Later, a three-point play by Stier with about six minutes remaining made it 52-36. The Panthers went on to lead by as many as 24 points, 64-40.
Emma Mogen scored 13 points and Avery Sundeen contributed 10 for Watford City, which will join the Class A ranks this fall.