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Headed to state: Blue Jays best Mandan in state play-in

The Jamestown High School girls basketball team defeated Mandan 66-53 in Saturday's state play-in game of the West Region tournament.

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Jamestown's Anthonet Nabwe (14) battles for the basketball with a pair of Mandan players during state tournament play-in action of the West Region girls basketball tournament at the Bismarck Event Center on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Jon Jablonski / Western Dakota Association

The last time the Jamestown High School girls basketball team made it to the Class A state basketball tournament assistant head coach McKayla Orr was a senior at Jamestown High School.

It was just as special -- albeit a little different -- for the assistant coach as it was seven years ago.

"It's such a different feeling being on the bench compared to out there playing, but I just hope that I can be that spark plug on the bench where I can give them a little pep talk and get them back out there.," Orr said.

The Blue Jays beat out sixth-seeded Mandan 66-53 Saturday at the Bismarck Events Center to nab their first state tournament berth since 2014. The Jays shot their way to a regular-season record of 13-7, defeating the Braves twice, each by an average of 10 points.

The Blue Jays will face Fargo Davies in the state quarterfinals at noon Mar. 12 at the Bismarck Events Center.

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"I feel like Jamestown had some rough patches and it's nice that these girls came in with a goal in mind," Orr said. "They kind of proved people wrong. They just came together. We just love being a part of the Blue Jay pride."

The seven-year drought brought a certain level of inexperience to the court for the Blue Jays. The Braves took advantage of shaky hands and missed passes to go on a 7-0 run right away. Annie Nabwe broke the ice with an aggressive drive to the basket. Jordan Finck, Ella Falk, and Grace Hegerle fell into place behind the stacked junior to tie the game at nine.

Nabwe took control with a steal and nice pass out to sophomore Breanna Oettle to give the Jays their first lead of the game.

"Before the game, a lot of us had a lot of nerves," Hegerle said. "As soon as we stepped out on the court for warmups we were like, OK time to put the nerves away and just play.

"It's just basketball, we just have to play. But also in the back of our heads, we were like, this is the game we have to pull it through."

It wasn't an easy battle for the team in white.

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Jamestown's Grace Hegerle (22) looks to make a pass while being defended by Mandan's Faith Eberle (34) during their state-qualifying game of the West Region girls basketball tournament at the Bismarck Events Center on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Jon Jablonski / Western Dakota Association

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The officials called Nabwe on her second foul with more than 10 minutes to play in the first half, forcing head coach Andy Skunberg to bench the standout junior and put Katie Falk back in the mix.

Nabwe's absence on the floor caused some missed shots down the stretch but Falk, a sophomore for the Jays, helped fuel a 7-2 run before Falk had two fouls called on her bringing her foul count to three.

The Blue Jays fell into a bit of a slump allowing an 8-0 run by the Braves to tie the game at 27 apiece. Hegerle buried two from the stripe to end the half up 29-27.

"We had a lot of chances where we could have folded where they made runs but we kept our composure," Skunberg said. "We hit some big shots. Credit our bench, they came in and gave us some good minutes and that's what we need. A total team effort."

No one was out of the second half but a technical foul on Mandan head coach Shaun Henderson certainly helped the Jays on the scoring front. The score was 37-34 when Henderson was issued the foul. Hegerle drained the bonus and Oettle extended the lead to eight from deep.

"We just didn't do the things that got us to this point in the season," Henderson said. "We didn't execute offensively like we have been the last five or six games. We stopped playing team defense and started playing individual defense."

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Jamestown junior forward Anthonet Nabwe (14) pulls up to attempt a jump shot against Mandan during state play-in action of the West Region girls basketball tournament at the Bismarck Event Center on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Jon Jablonski / Western Dakota Association.

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Hunter Petersen and Oettle had to come up big for the Blue Jays as Katie Falk and Nabwe fouled out late in the second half, leaving Skunberg with only 60% of his starters on the floor. Oettle nailed a pair from 3-point range while Petersen was busy at the hoop nabbing six rebounds.

Baskets from Faith Eberle and Jayden Wiest kept the Braves in the game and helped cut the lead to nine but the Jays continued to push making it a 15-point game.

There was too much ground to make up for Mandan.

"After we got up 7-0 to start and they came back, our girls never really responded," Henderson said. "(Jamestown fouling out) should have gotten our girls fired up but we just didn't play very inspired today."

Hegerle put the Jays ahead 17 and while the senior fouled out with 45 seconds left, she came off the floor with a huge smile on her face and gave her head coach a big hug coming off the sidelines.

"I don't even know how to describe what I was feeling," Hegerle said. "I was mostly just feeling proud. To get to the state tournament, especially for my last year, is just so awesome."

Jamestown 66, Mandan 53

MAN 27 26 -- 53

JHS 29 37 -- 66

MAN -- Sydney Gustavsson 11, Faith Eberle 8, Jayden Wiest 8, Amaya Ramsey 6, Piper Harris 5, Morgan Sheldon 5, Jordan Toman 4, McKenna Johnson 4, Dani Hale 2. Totals: 19 FG, 11-20 FT, 15 fouls. 3-pointers: Wiest 2, Ramsey 1, Harris 1.

JHS -- Grace Hegerle 13, Breanna Oettle 13, Annie Nabwe 11, Jordan Finck 10, Katie Falk 8, Ella Falk 7, Katie Trumbauer 2, Hunter Petersen 2. Totals: 25 FG, 13-18 FT, 19 fouls (K. Falk, Nabwe, Hegerle). 3-pointers: Finck 3, Oettle 2, Nabwe 1, E. Falk 1.

State Class A Girls Basketball Tournament

(Tournament seeding/records in parentheses)

March 12-14

At Bismarck Event Center

March 12

Game 1: (W4) Jamestown vs. (E1) Fargo Davies, noon

Game 2: (W2) Watford City vs. (E3) Grand Forks Red River, 2:30 p.m.

Game 3: (W1) Bismarck Century vs. (E4) Devils Lake, 5 p.m.

Game 4: (W3) Bismarck Legacy vs. (E2) Fargo Shanley, 7:30 p.m.

March 13

Game 5: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 1 p.m.

Game 6: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, 3 p.m.

March 14

Championship: Winner G5 vs. Winner G6, 1:30 p.m.

All-WDA

Bismarck Century: Julia Fitterer, Sr.; Ashton Kinnebrew, Sr.; Logan Nissley, So.

Bismarck High: Jilee Golus, Sr.; Peyton Neumiller, So.

Bismarck Legacy: Jaiden Baker, Sr.; Arianna Berryhill, Sr.

Jamestown: Grace Hegerle, Sr.; Anthonett Nabwe, Jr.; Ella Falk, So.

Mandan: Sydney Gustavsson, Sr.; Piper Harris, Jr.

Minot: Avery Lunde, Fr.

TMCHS (Belcourt): Amya Gourneau, So.

Watford City: Ashley Holen, Sr.; Emma Mogen, Sr.; Madison Spacher, Jr.

Senior Athlete of the Year: Ashley Holen, Watford City

Coach of the Year: Tom Dwyer, Watford City

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