Headed for state: Defense keys win over MinotBISMARCK — A team has to work twice as hard to win a basketball game when its shots aren’t falling, and that’s exactly what the Blue Jay girls did at the Bismarck Civic Center on Saturday.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — A team has to work twice as hard to win a basketball game when its shots aren’t falling, and that’s exactly what the Blue Jay girls did at the Bismarck Civic Center on Saturday.
Jamestown simply outhustled Minot in the first of two state-qualifying games of the West Region tournament, outrebounding the Majettes 43-30 — 13-9 on the offensive side — en route to punching the team’s third state tournament ticket in the past five years with a 52-43 victory over Minot.
The state Class A tournament will be back in Bismarck this week, with Jamestown facing West Fargo in the quarterfinals at approximately 7 p.m. inside the Bismarck Civic Center Exhibit Hall on Thursday.
“One of the goals was to get there. We were a little disappointed we couldn’t play for the (West Region) championship, but in the long run the goal is the state tournament,” JHS coach Andy Skunberg said. “It’s harder than it looks just to get there.”
Jamestown’s hard work in the paint and on the glass wasn’t the only thing that stood out on Saturday. It also marked the first time in the tournament the Blue Jays didn’t have to climb out of an early deficit.
The Blue Jays fell behind St. Mary’s 7-0 in Thursday’s opening round, before battling back to win 74-66. In Friday’s semifinal loss to Bismarck, Jamestown trailed 13-0 at the start and never recovered (60-51).
Jamestown scored the first two points against the Majettes and trailed by no more than five over the entire game.
“We came out a little tight the first couple of games I think, and in this one they were loose early this morning,” Skunberg said, referencing the 11 a.m. tip off. “We knew sooner or later it’s going to come around. It did for us to start with, and it was a battle back and forth.”
Trailing by its largest margin, 23-18 with 5:11 left in the first half, the Blue Jays turned to standout Kyra Dewald. The senior guard scored seven of her 10 first-half points during a 9-0 run by the Jays to close out the opening 18 minutes.
Jamestown led 27-23 at the half. Dewald led the Jays with 19 points and five assists in the game, and ended the three-day tournament averaging 18 points per contest.
“We gave it the good old Minot High Majette try there. The whole game I thought my girls played really, really hard,” Minot coach Todd Magnuson said. “We just couldn’t matchup with their size inside. We really struggled with their post play.”
Specifically, Jamestown 6-foot junior Paige Peterson, who posted 11 points and 12 rebounds — five offensive — during the game. Peterson performed well all weekend, posting a double-double in all three games to end with 44 points and 37 rebounds (19 offensive) during the tournament.
Junior guard McKayla Orr was also quite the handful for Minot to deal with. She also produced a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds (5 offensive), helping the Jays strike for 13 second-chance points in the game, while Minot was unable to record a single put back.
“With Paige inside and Billie (Buchanan) and Addie (Eamon), and McKayla Orr, I mean 10 rebounds for a little 5-4 girl? That’s tough,” Skunberg said. “They have a nose for the ball and they go get it. And those are huge, because when your shots aren’t falling, like ours aren’t the last couple of games, you need those second-chance points to keep you in the games and to win the games.”
Jamestown struggled all tournament with the long ball and misfired on 11-of-12 attempts from 3-point range against Minot. The Blue Jays finished the West Region tourney converting an icy 5-of-38 3-pointers and shot just under 40 percent, converting 62-of-157 total shots.
But from beyond 20 feet is where the Majettes shined on Saturday. Minot freshman Cassie Askvig and sophomore Brooke Suko teamed up to go back-to-back-to-back from 3-point range midway through the second half, giving the Majettes a 36-33 lead with 10:04 left to play.
Askvig hit two of her six 3-pointers in the game during Minot’s 13-6 run to start the second. Askvig went 6-for-7 from downtown, scoring a team-high 18 points as Minot outscored Jamestown 30-3 in the game from 3-point range.
Minot senior Loni Bryantt nailed three treys in the game and scored nine.
“They’d drive … we’d help and they’d kick and then be wide open. You know, give them credit for hitting shots,” Skunberg said. “In the end the law of averages are going to hit with them and they are going to cool off a little bit, and then we did a great job of getting the rebounds when they did miss.”
It was Dewald who stepped up once again, scoring four straight to give the Jays the lead back at 37-36 with 9:35 remaining. The Blue Jays never trailed again, but Minot stayed within striking distance until an 8-0 run by the Blue Jays to close out the game turned a 44-43 lead into a 52-43 victory over the final two minutes.
“We knew Minot was going to be a tough matchup a little bit, because they are pretty good shooters,” Skunberg said. “At the end we finally got some shots to fall for us … made some clutch free throws and we got out with a win.”
Jamestown went 3-of-4 from the line over the final 2 minutes, while Minot went 0-of-3.
“I’m proud of my kids. They left it all out on the floor,” Magnuson said. “We just couldn’t get some shots to fall at the right time for us and free throws kind of hurt us too.”
Jamestown senior Billie Buchanan kicked off Jamestown’s final run with a big bucket near the paint. It was Buchanan’s only two points of the contest, but the shot was huge as her team was leading by just a single point.
“It’s the score on the scoreboard that matters at the end of the game. It’s a big team win,” Buchanan said. “It means a lot to us (to go to state). We’ve worked hard all season.”
Dewald scored nine points in the second half, while Orr posted 10 of her 14 after the break. The two hooked up with 40 seconds left to the deliver the knockout punch.
Dewald hit a wide open Orr under the bucket with a bounce pass, and she’d convert the shot while being fouled. Orr hit the extra freebie to put the Jays ahead 49-43 and they’d never look back.
“Pretty much playing for our life,” Dewald said of the play. “It felt like do or die, so try to get through all the hardships and do what we could.”
Jamestown (17-5) didn’t face West Fargo (19-3) during the regular season. The Packers fell to No. 1-ranked Fargo Shanley 51-41 in the championship game of the EDC tournament in Fargo on Saturday.
Jamestown was ranked No. 4 in the final poll of the season, while West Fargo was ranked No. 3.
“Andy’s got a good team,” Magnuson said. “I’m glad Andy (and the Blue Jays are) going on. He’s going to do a great job with those kids at the state tournament, and I’m looking forward to watching them play next week.”
West Region Girls Basketball Tournament
At Bismarck Civic Center
Jamestown 52, Minot 43
Jamestown 27 25 — 52
Minot 23 20 — 43
Jamestown — Kyra Dewald 19, McKayla Orr 14, Paige Peterson 11, Addie Eamon 4, Billie Buchanan 2, Miah Dabill 2. Totals: 20-51 FG, 11-17 FT, 43 rebounds (Peterson 12, Orr 10), 13 fouls, 11 assists (Dewald 5), 15 turnovers, 5 steals (Orr 2). 3-pointers: (1-12) Dewald 1.
Minot — Cassie Askvig 18, Loni Bryantt 9, Andi Hankla 8, Sophie Bengson 4, Brooke Suko 3, Sierra Duttenhefer 1. Totals: 15-49 FG, 3-13 FT, 30 rebounds (Hankla 6), 15 fouls, 11 assists (Bryantt 3, Duttenhefer 3), 14 turnovers, 1 block (Askvig 1), 8 steals (Askvig 4). 3-pointers: (10-23) Askvig 6, Bryantt 3, Suko 1.
Records: Jamestown 17-5; Minot 10-11
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org