MINOT – Grant County entered the Class B girls basketball state tournament as the No. 5 seed.
One more victory and the Coyotes will leave with the state championship trophy.
The Coyotes advanced to the state title game for the very first time with a down-to-the-wire 49-47 semifinal victory over No. 1-seeded Medina-Pingree-Buchanan Friday night at the Minot State University Dome.
One night after defeating No. 4-seeded and defending state champion Kindred 60-57 on an Alexis Bentz buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Coyotes used a strong defensive effort and a balanced scoring attack to deny the Thunder a chance to capture their first state championship.
“It was a total team effort tonight,” said Grant County coach Nicole Bentz. “Medina is a great team and we needed our best effort to win. We did everything we had to do. We were confident in our game plan and we stuck to it.”
Grant County, 21-5, will take on Killdeer in tonight’s state championship game. Sophomore Camryn Alt said the Coyotes are determined to make school history.
“Grant County has never made it this far before. We know we can bring home a state championship if we keep playing together as a team,” she said. “We beat the No. 1 team tonight because we played a great game all around. We played Killdeer before and we beat them, so we know we can do it.”
The Coyotes defeated Killdeer 57-52 during the regular season. The Cowboys have won 12 straight since.
Grant County trailed 37-36 at the end of the third quarter, but turned the tide with a 10-1 run that started with a Camryn Alt basket 30 seconds into the fourth. After a Megan Moser free throw, Grant County reeled off eight straight points -- the last two on a shot clock buzzer-beating basket by Isabelle Boyer with 3:43 remaining.
Coach Bentz said the Coyotes were in attack mode to start off the third quarter.
“At the break we talked about attacking. We couldn’t hold anything back … we had to go out, take charge and get a run going,” she said. “We hit some big shots, but the key for us was all of the defensive stops we made. We really stepped up at both ends.”
MPB’s Amanda Allen stopped the bleeding with her sixth 3-pointer of the game, but Camryn Alt answered with two free throws with 2:46 left.
The Thunder turned the ball over on each of their next two possessions, but Allen delivered again with 29.6 seconds left to trim the deficit to four, 48-44.
After Grant County’s Molly Wetzel went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line, MPB’s Lauren Moser netted a 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game.
Taylor Roehl was fouled with eight seconds left, but missed the front end of a bonus. The Thunder rebounded, but Megan Moser’s 3-point attempt from the left wing missed the mark.
Camryn Alt said keeping MPB’s 6-foot-3 center Halle Uehran under control was a must. The Coyotes succeeded, holding Uehran to one field goal in four attempts and two free throws.
“(Uehran) is so good and so athletic and we knew we couldn’t let her control the inside,” Camryn Alt said. “I thought we did a good job defending her and limiting her number of shots.”
Roehl and Bentz led the Coyotes with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Three of Roehl’s points came on a 60-foot shot that beat the first quarter buzzer. Bentz also had nine rebounds.
Allen went 7-for-11 from 3-point land for 21 points. Jadyn Pollert added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Thunder, who lost for just the third time in 26 games.
Killdeer 48, Thompson 47
The unseeded Killdeer Cowboys weathered a storm that lasted nearly five minutes Friday night and earned a trip to the Class B girls basketball state championship game for the first time in school history.
The Cowboys trailed 29-21 with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter following a 14-0 Thompson run, but rallied for a 48-47 semifinal victory.
Killdeer, which scored its first points of the third with 3:30 left, closed out the frame on a 9-4 run to get within three, 33-30. After Thompson’s Mackenzie Hughes opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, the Cowboys surged ahead 37-36 with a 7-0 run that Steena Larsen finished off with a layup with 4:56 left.
Later, after the Tommies went ahead 41-39, Bridgette Reiss swished a 3-pointer with 2:25 remaining to give the Cowboys a 42-41 lead. It stayed that way until a Hughes basket with 56 seconds remaining put Thompson up 43-42. Fourteen seconds later, however, Killdeer regained the lead on a Larsen putback.
The next Thompson possession ended in a turnover, but the Tommies got the ball back with 24 seconds remaining after Sydney Andersen missed the front end of a bonus. However, Murray picked up a charge on Kaia Sorby’s drive to the basket with 14.9 seconds left. Three seconds later, Reiss netted a pair of free throws to make it 46-43.
Taylor Zak scored on a putback with 3.8 seconds left to pull the Tommies within one, but Reiss answered with two more free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining.
After a Thompson timeout, Zak took the ball to the basket for a layup and time expired.
Murray said there was no panic in the Killdeer huddle after Thompson’s 14-0 run.
“We’ve been situations like that before. We weren’t too concerned,” she said. “Teams are going to go on runs and it’s how you respond to them that matters most. We just kept battling. Our motto is ‘all gas and no breaks’. We knew we could get ourselves back in it if we kept playing hard.”
Murray scored a team-high 14 points, but the charge she drew with 14.9 seconds remaining was one of the biggest plays of the game. She also earned some ice cream.
“Our coach promises us ice cream every time we get a charge,” she said. “That was huge because it protected the lead and gave us the ball back. Taking charges hurts a little, but the hurt is only temporary. When you know it helps your team, it feels good.”
Reiss made all four of her free throw attempts in the final 11 seconds after the Cowboys went 5-for-19.
“I was a little nervous because we were struggling, but I knew I had to stay calm, step up and make them,” she said. “That has to be your mindset in a big game.”
Reiss finished with 10 points.
The Cowboys led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter, courtesy of Reiss’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Neither team scored in the second quarter until the 3:32 mark, when Brittney Munson made a 3-point shot, giving the Tommies a 13-12 lead. An Andersen basket 23 seconds later put the Cowboys back on top, and with 2:36 remaining, Melayna Four Bears netted a 3-pointer to make it 17-13. The half ended 21-17 after Zak scored in the closing seconds.
Thompson dominated the first four-plus minutes of the third quarter, scoring the first 12 points – eight by Kailen Dolleslager. Dolleslager led the Tommies with 16 points.
Killdeer is making only its second state tournament appearance. The first time was in 2005, when Murray was five years old.
“This is so exciting,” she said. “Getting to the region tournament was great, getting to state was awesome and winning our first game here was amazing. This has been such an incredible year and we have one more game to go.”