FARGO - All of No. 2 Thompson's frustration derived from its nightmarish first two days of the Class B girls basketball state tournament was released in the seventh-place game Saturday afternoon at the Fargodome.
Unfortunately for Watford City, that meant ending the season with a 68-38 defeat to the Tommies, whom most expected to challenge top-ranked Bishop Ryan in the championship game.
Instead, Thompson, which entered the tourney on a 23-game winning streak, came up short against unseeded Beach and Kidder County to open the tournament.
Thompson sophomore guard Molly McHugo (32) secures a loose ball beside Watford City’s Elise Hadley on Saturday at the Fargodome during the seventh-place game of the Class B state tournament.
Against Watford City, the Tommies (24-3) found their stride again. In building a 49-22 halftime lead, they shot 60 percent (18-30), finished plus-6 on the glass and forced 18 turnovers.
"They seemed to come out and really just get after the loose balls," Watford City coach John Zenz said. "They were making shots that they weren't making in the first couple rounds; they made a lot of nice shots. They were getting all the hustle plays. It kind of looked like they wanted it more as we got started."
The Tommies, who lost to Ryan in their season opener, held the No. 2 ranking all season thanks in part to their stellar senior class. Thompson will graduate its top three scorers - Shannon Galegher (17.6 points per game), Karleigh Weber (13.5 ppg) and Bethany Ivesdal (7.4 ppg) - this spring.
"We've got a really good bunch of seniors that have done a lot for our program and really just for school spirit and our whole community," Thompson coach Jason Brend said. "We wanted to go out and get the win for them. They wanted to end their high school careers with a win on the state tournament floor."
Junior forward Samantha Hegg led the Tommies with a game-high 17 points, followed by Galegher (12), Weber (11) and sophomore forward Emily Overby (10).
Thompson had five players record three steals or more, highlighted by Galegher's five. In building their lead, which extended to 61-27 in the third quarter, the Tommies full-court pressed Watford City and buckled down in the half-court with a zone look.
"We felt their strength is their inside game, so we wanted to attack them on the perimeter," Brend said. "The majority of the time we run a man-to-man defense, but we switched into a 2-3 zone and forced them to shoot it from the outside and were able to control most of the boards and I think that was the difference."
Thompson held a decisive 46-25 rebounding advantage and limited Watford City to 16-of-47 shooting (34 percent). The Wolves (20-8) committed 30 turnovers.
Watford City loses four seniors, but will return the bulk of its scoring, including sophomore forward Katie Mogen (18.5 ppg). Mogen finished with team highs of nine points and four rebounds.
Zenz said the Wolves will focus on improving their physical strength in the offseason.
"Hopefully we realize what it took to get here and we have a team that's capable of getting here the next few years, as well," Zenz said. "We have a lot of returning players. But also, we realize we need to get better to get here and make something good happen."
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.