One look at Flasher's 6-foot-3 junior post, Cody Ruscheinsky, and it isn't hard to figure out his assignment. He's there to plug up the middle, corral rebounds and score occasionally on put-backs and lobs.
However, there's significant scoring punch wrapped up in Ruscheinsky's 235-pound frame, a fact to which Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky can readily testify.
Ruscheinsky toasted TLMM, a state tournament qualifier last year, with 18 points and nine rebounds as Flasher won 66-63 in Wednesday's quarterfinal round of the Mandan Holiday Tournament.
Other winners in the first round of the long-standing holiday basketball event were Shiloh, 63-28 over Grant County; Bottineau, 75-51 over Wilton-Wing, and Hettinger-Scranton, 57-33 over New Salem-Almont.
TLMM Had battled back from a 37-25 halftime deficit to a 51-51 standoff when Ruscheinsky took over the proceedings.
He scored two short-range baskets and then connected on the business end of a lob. Teammate Jaron Reis drove the lane for a basket and then Ruscheinsky scored again from down low. Presto, Flasher had a 61-53 lead and never trailed again.
"It wasn't me, really," Ruscheinsky said of his game-turning scoring burst. "We called a time-out and realized with the right cutting I could get open."
That isn't to say the Trojans didn't make it interesting, pulling to within two points twice in the final minute.
TLMM shaved the shortfall to 62-60 on a pair of Trapper Jacobs free throws with 38 seconds on the clock. And a 3-pointer by Jacobs cut the Bulldog advantage to 65-63 with six seconds to play.
Flasher countered with free throws, three by Reis and one by Hunter Frederick in the final 30 seconds.
Ruscheinsky, a first-year starter, said the Bulldogs were well aware TLMM remained dangerous until the final horn.
"Last year we played them in the first round of the (Region 5) tournament. We were up like 12-2 and they came back and beat us. ... We crashed and burned. ... This year we didn't want that to happen again," he related.
Flasher singed TLMM 18-6 in the second quarter for a 37-25 halftime lead, but the Trojans turned the tables in the third period. TLMM opened the second half with a 12-1 run, and took a 45-44 lead on a ballhawking transition basket by Jacobs with 43 seconds remaining in the quarter.
That lead proved temporary, though, as Brett Gabrielson's 3-pointer put the Bulldogs up 47-45 heading into the fourth period.
"We came out of halftime and fell apart," Ruscheinsky said. "We needed to figure out our offense and get it going again. ... And we needed to start talking to each other on defense, again."
Ruscheinsky said the current 2-3 record is not a true reflection of Flasher's potential.
"We're growing now. It took awhile to develop as a team. We know the athletes are there. We've just got to figure it out," he said. "... That's why we need to get the chemistry thing going."
Ruscheinsky's 18 points was tops among Flasher's four double-figure scorers. Logan Schriock, a 6-2 junior, came off the bench to score 15 points and grab seven rebounds. Reis, a 6-foot sophomore, added 12 points and seven rebounds and Frederick, a 6-4 junior, popped in 10 points.
Flasher carved out a 33-31 rebounding edge and outshot the Trojans 57 percent to 37 percent. TLMM was charged with 12 turnovers, 10 of them in the first half. Flasher coughed the ball up 19 times, 14 of the miscues coming after intermission.
TLMM coach Joi Anderson said the tournament fans didn't see the true Trojan team in the first half.
"Sometimes when you come off vacation like that with one practice it's hard to get them going again," he said. "We play a lot better than that (first half). We work harder and we don't give up that many layups."
A huge chunk of the Trojan attack came 6-foot senior Seth Laframboise and 6-2 junior Trapper Jacobs. They scored 24 and 25 points, respectively, and accounted for 15 of TLMM's 31 rebounds.
"We're still a pretty young team. They're looking for somebody else to do it. ... That comes from (lack of) leadership," Anderson said. "Senior leadership is extremely important."
The setback left TLMM 3-1 on the season.
Today's action begins with consolation bracket play, Grant County meeting TLMM and Wilton-Wing taking on New Salem-Almont at 3 and 4:30, respectively.
Defending tournament champion Shiloh plays Flasher in a matchup of District 9 teams in the 6 p.m. semifinal with Bottineau's semifinal clash with Hettinger-Scranton to follow.