The state's top team North Star is back in the Region 4 title game.
By Harry Lipsiea
For the second game in a row, the North Star girls basketball team put together a huge second quarter to pull away from its opponent prior to halftime Tuesday evening. Featuring three players in double figures and a solid defensive effort, the Bearcats punched their ticket to the Region 4 title game Thursday in Devils Lake.
The top-ranked team in the state knocked off Warwick 63-35 in the regional semifinals. It all started on defense for North Star as its opponent scored just nine points in the first half Second-year head coach Jill Vote noted that the team did a good job limiting the Warrior's top scorers Madison Leaf and Whisper Gourd.
"We knew they were both very good ballplayers. So, we focused on them," Vote pointed out. "Peyton (Halverson) did a great job on Leaf and Macey (Kvilvang) limited Gourd. I thought our help side defense did a really good job forcing them to take outside shots or lob it inside. It was a true team defensive effort."
North Star jumped out to a 7-0 start. Warwick pulled within two late in the first quarter after a Gourd layup. In the final minute of the period, the Bearcats pulled away as Stephanie Miller hit a jumper and Kelli Jo Huschle added a putback at the buzzer to give her team an 11-5 lead after one.
The Bearcats took over in the second stanza by scoring the first 17 points. Kvilvang, Halverson and Miller each added two-point baskets to make the score 28-5. Warwick scored late to get a little closer, but North Star went into the locker room with a 34-9 lead.
The Warriors came out determined in the third period. A three by Madison Leaf along with a jumper by Gourd helped the team cut the deficit to 16 at 38-22. North Star, however, continued to march on as Madison Borstad and Kvilvang nailed jumpers to make the score 49-27 going into the fourth quarter.
The Bearcats left no doubt in the final period. Miller, Halverson and Kvilvang added layups to give the top-rated team a 30-point advantage. North Star closed out the 63-35 victory and earned a spot in the regional finals Thursday.
"It was a good win," Vote said. "We feel we are conditioned for 32 minutes. Since early in the year, we have talked about wearing teams down. I thought we did a nice job of chipping away offensively. But for us, it all starts on defense."
Kvilvang led all players with 24 points. Miller was close behind with 19 points while Halverson also hit double figures with 12 points. Huschle and Borstad rounded out the scoring with four points each.
Madison Leaf was Warwick's leading scorer with 19 points. Gourd added nine points while BryAnn Robertson chipped in with four points. Rayanne Leaf rounded out the scoring with three points.
North Star plays the top-seeded team from District 7 Harvey-Wells County for the regional crown Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
"This is a composed group of athletes who have really been building for this season," Vote said. "We really challenged them in the offseason and pushed them in practice hoping it would payoff. For now, we continue to take it one game at a time."
Warwick plays Langdon-Edmore-Munich in the third-place game at 6 p.m. Thursday