Valley City played West Region champion Bismarck close during Thursday's quarterfinal clash, but the Hi-Liners were unable to topple the top-ranked Demons.
Led by a double-double from Keisha Engelhardt, Bismarck advanced to the Class A state tournament semifinals, defeating East Region No. 4 seed Valley City 60-50 at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
The Demons never trailed, but didn't hold a double-digit lead until the game's waning moments, either.
Bismarck senior guard Keisha Engelhardt (23) dribbles past Valley City's Dierra Diegel during a Class A state tournament quarterfinal Thursday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
"They're a very good basketball team," Bismarck coach Dallas Hinderer said. "I'm impressed with the little things that they do right, and they do a lot of the little things that help you win basketball games."
Valley City (15-8) lined up in a 1-2-2 zone, something that Bismarck hasn't seen much of this season, Hinderer said.
The Demons, who
typically score in transition in bunches, were forced into half-court sets for much of the game, disrupting their regularl offensive rhythm.
Bismarck averages 73.9 points per game. At halftime, they had 28.
"We want to push the ball, and they slowed us down in the middle of the court," Hinderer said. "We just played way too fast instead of just relaxing and trying to do what we do."
In the second half, with Bismarck leading by six, Valley City grabbed the momentum immediately, scoring consecutive baskets in the first minute to shrink the deficit to 28-26.
That was the closest the Hi-Liners got.
Dierra Diegel, the Hi-Liners' catalyst, scored 12 points of her team-high 18 points in the second half, including a six-point individual run that shrunk her team's deficit to four with 10:14 to play.
Valley City was in reach of the Demons for most of the game, but was unable to keep pace.
Coach Waylan Starr was pleased with his team's
defensive output, and with a bit more luck, he thought the result could have been different.
"It seemed like in the last six minutes, every little tip, every little bounce was heading Bismarck's way," Starr said. "We couldn't offset that. We'd get a good steal, and then we'd turn around and let them get a tip on the ball.
"I just give our girls a lot of credit for the heart they showed out there, the determination."
Bismarck, which has won four straight games and 18 of its last 19, advances to the semifinal round, where it will take on Minot at 1 p.m. today in the Minot State Dome.
Engelhardt led the Demons with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while teammates Kenzie Kiefer and Courtney Trolliey finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.