Rugby girls basketball returns to state

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RUGBY, N.D. - The Rugby Panthers are back in the State Tournament for the first time since the Shea Heidlebaugh era in 2016. This year's cast returns thanks to togetherness and confidence in everyone that's a part of the program.

"We didn't start it in November, we started it back in June and we've been working really hard together over the years," said senior center Madison Uhlenkamp.

"We play really well together as a team. We're all pretty good friends off the court, so that obviously transfers onto the court. It's just fun playing with them and I think we work well together," said junior guard Maria Blessum.

"I would say our defense and our ability to go pretty deep on the bench. We're all able to step up. If one person is having a bad night, the next person steps up and just plays like everybody else would," said senior forward Tristin Lunde.

Rugby is locked into a match-up with the Killdeer Cowboys out of Region 7, another squad with a similar skill-set but with greater size.

"Coming in ranked third, we're a little bit higher. I feel like we have the experience down. We're not going there just to get the experience, we're going there to compete and win some games," Lunde said.

"They're athletic," said Head Coach Jen Brossart. "They're lengthy in nature. They go three 6-foot girls if they have to. They get up and down the floor like we do. They're not afraid to shoot the 3-ball. They work it inside, they have a good inside-out game. So I expect it to be a great match-up between two teams that put on the black and orange."

The Panthers are ready to make history at the Minot State Dome and join the Boys Team from 2015 as Class B State Champions.

"It'd be awesome. I don't even know, like the boys won it a few years ago. I just think it would be cool to show people that we can do it, too," Blessum said.

"We've got to be playing our best basketball," Brossart said. "We've got to be shooting with confidence. We've got to be playing good defense, and we certainly have to run our plays and execute offensively. I think if we do those three things, we'll be in good shape. If we could hang a banner in this gym, I think it would be a big thing for our community. It'd be a big thing for the girls basketball program in this neck of the woods."

The Panthers and Cowboys tip off Thursday afternoon at 2:45 p.m.