The Rugby Panthers started 2022 in men’s basketball with a 54-41 victory over the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers at Charlie Hanneman Gym at Rugby High on January 6.
The Panthers brought resolve to the game after a narrow loss to Beulah in Minot on Dec. 30.
The Lakers brought most of their key players with them to rugby, however, leading scorer Carson Yale remained on the bench due to an injury sustained in football last fall. First-year coach Chris Brown led the Lakers, often swapping players off the bench to create a mix of tough defenders and a fast downfield offense.
After Laker Rylan Olson sank a bucket early in the game, the Panthers responded with a three-pointer from forward Lathan DeMontigny. Two points followed from leading scorer Brody Schneibel, Gavin Schepp and Jacob Ripplinger, one of the Panthers’ JV players moved by head coach Mike Santjer to the varsity roster. Santjer’s choice to bring his own players onto the pitch has paid off. Ripplinger would go on to put 13 points on the board for the Panthers in the game.
Erik Foster and Kory Vetsch rounded out the Panthers scorers for the first quarter, each with two points. The Panthers held the Lakers to the bucket from Olson and one from guard Brayton Fisher. A foul on Olson gave him a chance at the free throw line, where he made one of two shots. The Panthers led 15-5 at the end of the first quarter.
The Panthers’ lead would narrow slightly in the second quarter, but Rugby remained in control, thanks to two three-pointers from Ripplinger, a free kick from Schneibel and a point from a free throw from DeMontingny on a foul by Laker Brenden Hedges. The Lakers won over the Panthers when Brown dispatched guard Ty Hughes. Hughes scored six points in the quarter, the most in the quarter for the Lakers. Guard Jacob Schaefer made two trips to the free throw line after a foul by Schneibel, then another by Panthers guard Logan Harner. Schaefer made three of four attempts. Paxton Ystaas took the Lakers’ total score to 10 for the quarter with a bucket sunk on a rebound.
In the third quarter, the Panthers added 10 to their lead with another three from Ripplinger, two buckets from Schneibel and one from Foster. The Panthers defense became more aggressive, sending Lakers Olson and Fisher to the free throw line.
DeMontigny would foul in the fourth quarter. “It’s good. We have a lot of guys,” Santjer said after the game. We want to make life a bit miserable for our opponents.
Both teams did their best to make each other miserable by racking up more points in the fourth quarter.
Hughes returned to the ground for DLB. Again, he landed three buckets. Shaefer scored a shot and drew more fouls. He made four of four free throws. Olson and Ystaas each had two points on the board. The Lakers had 16 points in the fourth quarter, the most of any in the game.
The Panthers “I’m after”, according to Sanjer. Rugby would total 20 points in the fourth quarter, with most coming from buckets sunk by Schneibel. Foster sank two of his own, then made a trip to the free throw line, where he sank a pointer. Striker Bryceton Deplazes, also a member of the JV team, landed a shot through the hoop and fouled it resulting in a free throw point. Vetsch and DeMontingny each had a two-point shot. The final buzzer sounded with the Panthers ahead by a solid 13-point margin.
“We kind of have this ‘next guy’ mentality,” said Santjer after the victory. “And if Lathan has a little foul issue, we have this next guy on the bench, Kuntz or Kory or somebody we rotate. So, it’s good that these guys are going after that and we’re okay with that.
“That’s what we want to do, stay after the teams” Santjer added.
Santjer said of top scorers Schneibel and Ripplinger, “Brody is going to be a workaholic for us. He takes a lot of rebounds. He’s a big guy around the baskets, so that’s great. Jacob had a great night from the JV game to the college game. He shot the ball very well for us. He was super active on the attacking side, which was fantastic. Those are 13 big points for us.
“We had a lot of kids step up for us and it was good to see,” Santjer added. “It proves that our bench is getting a bit deeper.”
The Panthers would board the bus for Harvey the following night for a basketball game in The Hornets’ Nest against HWC.
“They beat us at CNDC so it will be good to have a win against them,” Santjer said of the HWC Hornets. “But we just want to keep improving. They are a good team, so if we can go out there and perform well, it will be good for us.
“They are thrilled to play Harvey,” Santjer said of the Panthers. “They know a lot of kids there, so it will be good.”