Back to Bismarck: Blue Jays to play Davies at state tourney

The Jamestown High School girls basketball team will travel to Bismarck Friday for the opening round of the 2020-21 Class A state tournament.

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Jamestown High School seniors, from left, Kaylee Panchot, Grace Hegerle and Jordan Finck will help lead the Blue Jays girls' basketball team at the state tournament this week. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The three seniors on the Jamestown High School girls basketball team don't remember much from the last time the Blue Jays made the state tournament.

"I honestly do not remember the last time the girls basketball team went to state," senior Kaylee Panchot said. "I do know that it was back in 2014 though. I wasn’t big into watching high school basketball games back then. My family and I had just moved to Jamestown in 2011, so I still wasn’t really much in the know of high school sports."

Grace Hegerle doesn't remember much either, other than she was in fifth grade and in JHS head girls basketball coach Andy Skunberg's classroom.

Now seven years later, the trio of seniors will end their Blue Jay basketball careers with their now head coach on the sidelines.

The Blue Jays outlasted Mandan 66-53 in the final state-qualifying game of the WDA tournament last Saturday at the Bismarck Events Center to advance to state. The Blue Jays, the No. 4 seed out of the West, will face East Region champion Fargo Davies in the opening round back in Bismarck this Friday (March 12) at noon.


The Eagles ended the regular season with a 13-2 record in the EDC and were 22-2 overall.

"It’s always the goal to make it to state every season you step on the court and all the time you put in on the off-season," JHS senior Jordan Finck said. "I think this year we came in with a young team and were overlooked by other teams but we knew we had the potential to make it here and do great things."

The Jays strung together a 13-7 regular-season record and ended up the No. 5 seed heading into the WDA tournament. The Jays lost a 45-42 heartbreaker to Bismarck High in the WDA quarterfinals but rebounded with a 72-36 win over Bismarck St. Mary's in the loser-out game to make it to the state play-in matchup.

The Blue Jay seniors -- Finck, Hegerle and Panchot -- had never made it to the third day of the West Regional. Panchot said a strong team bond helped the Jays fight through the adversity and advance further than the past six Blue Jay basketball squads.

"We are able to joke around and have fun, but when it’s time to be serious, we are able to focus and get things done," Panchot said. "We are able to push each other to be better as well. Honestly, we were able to get to the tournament because we work together as a team. Not one person on our team is selfish. Every single person is selfless. We all play for each other, not against each other."

Skunberg said the preparation for the state tourney began soon after the final buzzer signaled the defeat of Mandan. The head coach said he and the team have watched game film and are working on tying up loose ends at practices before heading out of town on Thursday.

The North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) met on Jan. 29 and ruled that there will be no consolation games, meaning that once a team loses its season ends. Skunberg said the Jays' hope is to stay until the final day of the tournament but will have to make some changes before they take the court against the Eagles.

The Blue Jays fell into some foul trouble against the Braves as three Blue Jay starters fouled out in the second half. Skunberg said the Blue Jays were a little bit nervous and antsy playing in the do-or-die type game and got more physical on the defensive end which led to 19 team fouls.


"We just have to play sound defense," Skunberg said. "We've got to move our feet and not use our hands and do the little things. We haven't had a real issue of foul trouble with three girls, maybe one or two, but hopefully that was just an anomaly."

While the Jays want to stay out of the foul zone against the Eagles, Skunberg's bench is in good shape. Breanna Oettle, a sophomore, tied Hegerle for Saturday's top-scorer with 13 points. Oettle hit two from deep and was aggressive on defense. Hunter Petersen has helped the Jays on the defensive end while Katie Trumbauer is another face off the bench who has put in some good varsity minutes.

"I think this team has more trust in each other than in the past," Hegerle said. "We all trust each other on both ends of the court and we all put full trust in Skun and the rest of the coaches and they do the same for us. I think that’s the most important thing on our team. We all listen to each other."

"I've watched (them) grow up and it's good to see these seniors get the chance to go to state in basketball," Skunberg said. " I am very, very proud and happy for them."

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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