Dakota College-Bottineau coach Wayne Johnson tried to stop the bleeding.
Terae Briggs and the United Tribes Thunderbirds had other ideas during the championship game of the Region 13 tournament on Sunday afternoon.
The Bottineau Lumberjacks led by as many as 20 points in the second half at the United Tribes gym. That’s when United Tribes coach Kia Herbel called for full-court pressure and aggressive defense. The result was a roaring comeback and a 75-69 victory in favor of United Tribes. All coach Johnson could do is watch his team go down.
The Thunderbirds (17-14) will play host to the District F championship game on Saturday or Monday – opponent to be determined – for the right to advance to the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
What makes United Tribes’ comeback all the more impressive is they did it with a six-man roster.
“Six players! I don’t get a sub or anything!,” said Briggs, a 6-foot-3 freshman center from Pryor, Mont. “Coach makes us run and stuff, so we get conditioned. She says, ‘Suck it up. We can win.’ We just work as a team. We feel like we can do anything together if we work as a team. We can face any team that has 10 players.
“In a lot of our games we have been down by 20 and caught up. We either win by one point or lose by four.”
Briggs finished with a banner day, scoring 32 points and snagging 14 rebounds. McKayla Peltier came off the bench and netted 28 points, hitting 10 of 12 free throw attempts.
Bottineau guard Darby Deckert canned a 3-pointer from the right wing with 5:03 to play in the third quarter to give the Lumberjacks a 55-35 lead.
That’s when Herbel called for lots of pressure, the kind that extends the length of the floor. It has been a valuable weapon for the Thunderbirds all season and it was no different on Sunday.
“We wanted to catch them off guard a bit and chase them around so they couldn’t get shots off like they were earlier,” Herbel said. “They had incredible percentages for their shooting in the first half. We were trying to throw them off just a little bit and it worked for us. We have six players so we have to be careful so we don’t use all our energy up in one hurrah. When you’re down by 20, sometimes teams don’t come back from that. My girls wanted it today. I’m very proud of them.”
What followed was a 26-2 United Tribes run. Briggs contributed with 12 points and Peltier 11. Peltier had two 3-pointers in the rally and a conventional three-point play, which gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the contest, a 56-55 advantage with 9:14. Briggs closed matters with a short jump shot with 5:54 remaining to give United Tribes a 63-59 lead. Bottineau never recovered.
“We didn’t handle the pressure well,” Johnson said. “We got a little panicky. We got down on the other end and couldn’t score or finish. There was a stretch in there where they scored 10 or 12 points, and we didn’t handle it well. They are a good team and are hard to guard.”
Briggs faced a double team, something she hadn’t seen much of this season.
“The rest of the girls helped her,” Herbel said. “She wasn’t prepared for it in a sense that we haven’t seen it that often. She got a feel for what was coming and decided to finish it.”
Stopping Briggs was certainly a goal of Bottineau’s.
“She’s the real deal,” Johnson said. “We don’t have the size to combat her. As the momentum changed and we started to spread the floor defensively, she went to town and cleaned house on us.”
Mattie Schmitt led Bottineau with 16 points. Mary Jones added 14 and Darby Deckert 11.
DC-Bottineau 21; 40; 55; 69 – 69
UTTC 11; 33; 50; 75 – 75
DC-BOTTINEAU (69): Shania Brackenbury 3-9 0-0 9, Stephanie Brenden 3-12 0-0 7, Darby Deckert 4-9 0-0 11, Mary Jones 5-14 2-2 14, Mattie Schmitt 5-14 6-6 16, Destiny Garza 2-4 0-0 6, Chelsie Deibert 2-6 2-2 6. Totals 24-68 10-10 69.
UTTC (75): Shelby Greeley 3-13 2-4 8, Gia Davis 2-6 0-0 4, Kaylea Skunkcap 0-5 0-0 0, Terae Briggs 14-23 4-6 32, Jessica Starr 1-8 1-3 3, McKayla Peltier 8-16 10-12 28. Totals 28-71 17-25 75.
3-pointers: B 11 (Brackenbury 3, Deckert 3, Garza 2, Jones 2, Brenden 1), UTTC 2 (Peltier 2). Rebounds: B 36 (Jones 7, Brenden 7), UTTC 55 (Briggs 14). Steals: B 7 (Brenden 3), UTTC 8 (Greeley 4). Turnovers: B 14, UTTC 17. Fouls: B 19, UTTC 13. Fouled out: B, Brenden. Technical fouls: Bottineau.
Records: B 16-16 overall; UTTC 17-14.
< h4> Tournament awards
Region 13 MVP: Terae Briggs, United Tribes
Region 13 coach of the year: Kia Herbel, United Tribes
All-Region 13 team: Maria Wiltzius, Gogebic; Mary Jones, Bottineau; Mattie Schmitt, Bottineau; Shelby Greeley, United Tribes; Briggs, United Tribes