For the Des Lacs-Burlington boys basketball team, catching up with No. 4 Rugby on Tuesday proved to be like escaping quicksand.
The harder the Lakers tried to come back, the less luck they had.
With DL-B forced to press in a desperate comeback attempt in the second half, Rugby repeatedly ran through the Laker defense for layups. The end result: 61 percent field-goal shooting and a 69-47 Panthers win in a Region 6 tournament semifinal at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
Rugby sophomore Brad Heidlebaugh goes up for a layup between two Des Lacs-Burlington defenders during a Region 6 tournament semifinal Tuesday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
"Fortunately for us, we have some guys who understand the press," Rugby coach Mike Santjer said. "If we can get it to the middle of the floor, we're pretty dangerous."
The Panthers (24-1) will play District 11 foe Westhope-Newburg in Thursday's championship game, with the winner advancing to the state tournament next weekend.
The Panthers assisted on 22 of their 31 made shots and placed four scorers in double figures.
"They attack from a lot of different angles," DL-B coach Doug Wagner said. "They don't have to have the ball in one guy's hands. They can push it with a lot of different guys."
Rugby jumped out to a 21-7 lead after one quarter by shooting 75 percent in the opening frame.
After the Panthers stretched their lead to as many as 15 in the second quarter, DL-B (19-5) closed the half on a 9-0 run to make it 37-29. Lakers junior Chris Duke had all 11 of his points in the second frame.
The Lakers remained in striking distance until midway through the third quarter, when Rugby used a 9-0 spurt to take a 16-point lead. DL-B wouldn't get closer than 14 points the rest of the way, as Rugby routinely ran past the Lakers for easy baskets.
Beginning with Rugby's last basket of the third quarter, nine consecutive Panther buckets were from inside the paint.
"We felt really confident just being able to push the floor and run because that's our style of play," said Rugby senior Josh Michels, who knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 16 points. "That's what we like to do. That's what we work on in practice every day."
Sophomore Brad Heidlebaugh scored a team-high 18 for Rugby, and Kyle Lovcik added 16 in a milestone-setting effort. The athletic senior passed 1,000 points for his career with a coast-to-coast drive to the hoop in the second quarter.
DL-B junior Tanner Holte tallied a game-high 26 points on 9-of-21 shooting and scored 13 of the Lakers' 18 points after halftime.
DL-B will face Berthold in the third-place game Thursday at 6 p.m.
Westhope-Newburg 55, Berthold 52
W-N outscored the Bombers 16-6 in the final quarter to upset the top seed from District 12.
Beginning at about the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Sioux went on an 8-0 run to gain control. Berthold's Austin Lee, who finished with a game-high 20 points, made a jump shot with 47 seconds remaining to cut W-N's lead to two.
After a Sioux turnover and a Berthold missed shot, Hunter Braaten hit 1-of-2 free throws and Bombers senior Logan Gunderson missed a desperate heave at the final buzzer.
"(My players) just sucked it up and said, 'This is it. We either need to give it everything we got or we're gonna be disappointed,' " said W-N coach Bob Beaudrie, whose team trailed by 14 points midway through the third quarter.
W-N senior Karlie Hancock, a solid post defender not known lighting up the scoreboard, stepped up with a team-high 15 points, hitting 7-of-14 shots and even banking in a 3-pointer from the wing. The Bombers (21-3) held Braaten, W-N's leading scorer, to 11 points - 10 below his average.
"We just had to move the ball around as a team and get it to the open guy and score," Hancock said. "We expected them to double-team Hunter so we had to work on some other things in practice this week and it really paid off."
Equally important was W-N's work on the glass. The Sioux (18-6) outrebounded the Bombers 43-26 on the strength of double-doubles from Hancock (15 points, 10 rebounds) and his brother, Kodie (11 points, 16 rebounds).
"To have them both get double-doubles, that hasn't happened in the four years they've been playing together," Beaudrie said. "Karlie stepped up big. That's one of the main reasons why we're here is his post defense."
The Sioux will look to avenge two previous losses to Rugby to advance to the state tournament next weekend. The Panthers beat W-N 62-49 in the regular season and 83-50 in the District 11 championship game.