Back on Top: Lady Royals handle BSC to regain first place in Mon-Dak

Sam Herder
Cassidy Nelson's left hand proved trouble for Bismarck State College. Nelson scored 21 points in LRSC's 83-74 win Thursday to move back into first place in the Mon-Dak Conference.

By Sam Herder

Journal Sports Editor

Last season, the Lake Region State College women’s basketball team had to share the Mon-Dak Conference championship. The Royals want it all to themselves this year.

Minus taking the foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter, LRSC (22-6, 9-1) dominated Bismarck State College (19-4, 8-2) 83-74 Thursday to retake first place in the conference standings with two games remaining.

“It feels great,” Royals head coach Danny Mertens said. “Now we just have to win one out of two. Even if we drop one, we’d have the tiebreaker with BSC. But I know these girls are hungry enough that they want to win it outright.”

It was quite the difference defensively for the Royals on their home court. LRSC allowed 104 points in January’s loss in Bismarck. The Royals contained BSC’s fast-paced offense, which rarely let the shot clock hit 15 seconds. The Mystics were held to just 10 points in the second quarter.

“We did a much better job with containing the dribble,” Mertens said. “We stopped the penetration and that’s what hurt us down there. We got hands up and contested shots.”

Meanwhile, the Royals offense countered BSC’s quick shots by establishing their presence in the paint.

The Mystics had no answers for post players Cassidy Nelson and Kristal Flowers. Nelson scored 21 points, Flowers had 20 and guard Kennedy Henningsgard balanced the floor with 21 points from her guard position.

“We’ve been working on our post moves all week,” Nelson said. “We really concentrated on that and holding our seals. We just really worked on that this week and we’ve improved in that area.”

A key to the game was containing Keisha Engelhardt, who scored 43 points against the Royals in January. LRSC held her in check along with the entire offense, as the Mystics shot just 32.4 percent in the first half.

The rough half got worse with less than two minutes to play when Engelhardt suffered a right knee injury and had to be helped off the court. She did not return.

While the Royals left their defensive mark in the second quarter, taking a 44-32 lead into halftime, the offense made a mark in the third.

Behind the scoring of Flowers in the paint and Henningsgard heating up from 3-point land, the Royals built their biggest lead of 63-42 late in the third quarter.

“I feel our posts are the strongest in the conference,” Mertens said. “In practice, that’s been one of our big keys is feeding the posts. The posts score, then people starting sucking down and then we can shoot the basketball. We want to work inside out.”

With a comfortable lead, the Royals got sloppy on offense. Turnovers didn’t bode well against a team that could score in a hurry. Midway through the final quarter, BSC found itself down just eight. But when LRSC needed a crucial basket, Nelson came through. Two of her three layups in the fourth put the Royals back up by double digits.

“It kind of seemed like they didn’t necessarily know that I was left handed, even though I feel like everyone knows,” Nelson said. “But they weren’t really guarding me on my left so I just took it and went left.”

LRSC has won four straight games since the loss in Bismarck. Two games remain, beginning at United Tribes on Monday and hosting Bottineau on Wednesday.