2021-22 Lake Region Invitational Recap: Day 2

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – And there you have it. Day No. 2 of the Lake Region Invitational is officially in the books. However, another day of action did not deny the crowd from seeing their money’s worth. Here is the result of each matchup during the second day of the Lake Region Invitational. 

Nelson County vs. Park River/Fordville/Lankin (Dec. 3) 

Final score: 39-23 Nelson County 

Scoring breakdown: 

    - 00-13-03-07: 23 

    - 12-06-09-12: 39

At a glance: 

The Chargers wanted to play a complete game. To be more specific, the Chargers wished to start the second half of the consolation semifinal contest as strongly as they did the first. This meant being robust, crisp and sturdy enough on the defensive end. The Chargers did just that as they held the Aggies to 10 total points during the second half of the consolation semifinals and went on to win, 39-23. 

“We emphasized that again,” Nelson County head coach Gus Kueber said after the win. “Especially right from the tip. We wanted to make sure we came out strong. The girls understood yesterday that we let that game get away from us. A good way of putting it to the girls was we are either winning, or we are learning from this. We are not going to take a loss and just take it. We are going to learn from it and figure out what we can do to be better.” 

Nelson County's Marit Ellingson dribbles into the offensive zone.

Nelson County’s Marit Ellingson started the offensive scoring. The senior guard picked up an early layup after two offensive rebounds (senior guard Paytan Lippert and senior center Hollie Emory) kept the possession arrow in her team’s favor.

However, a 12-0 quarter for the Chargers did not quell the Aggies. Junior forward Hannah Halvorson scooped three baskets and trimmed Nelson County’s lead to five by the end of the second quarter. 

Nelson County was in an all too familiar pickle. It all stemmed back to how the Chargers would open the second half and, more importantly, the first three minutes. 

After they faltered to Devils Lake JV on Dec. 2, the Chargers came out stronger through the first three minutes of the third. It was this strength that carried through the rest of the contest. 

“Part of it was just being refocused,” Kueber said. “Yesterday, we got a little complacent in that second half. When you have a 10-point lead at halftime, I think it was a little bit too big of a cushion where we thought we could coast our way through it. Especially early in the season, it is a learning lesson where girls can understand you have to play the game. You can beat anybody on any given day, and you can lose to anybody on any given day. The energy and effort have to be there on a consistent basis. 

The Chargers will face off against North Star for the honor of fifth place on Dec. 4 at 12:30 p.m. CT. 

Larimore vs. North Star (Dec. 3) 

Final score: 40-33 North Star 

Scoring breakdown: 

    -      11-07-09-06: 33

    -      09-09-15-07: 40

At a glance: 

Their 44-43 defeat to the Dunseith Dragons was a gut-punch. Is there a buzzer-beating loss that isn’t? Even still, the Bearcats needed to play the next day, and play they did. The Bearcats, through a couple of timely shots and enough defensive efficiency, took home their first win of the regular season with the 40-33 result. 

“After a hard-fought contest last night against Dunseith, coming back, we are playing less than 24 hours, and we definitely don’t have our game legs quite yet,” North Star head coach Jill Vote said. “We have kids logging a lot of minutes and are working extremely hard. We knew we would face a little adversity today, and Larimore came out and worked very hard. We had to challenge ourselves and that adversity. We have talked about all season where we are going to have games where the shots aren’t falling, and tonight was one of them. We could tell our legs were a little tired, and we really prided ourselves in defense at practice and challenged our kids to go full-court and move their feet. We are very happy for them that that is what got them back in the game because we are going to face those games where the shots aren’t going to fall.” 

After nailing what seemingly was the go-ahead three-pointer against Dunseith on Dec. 2, Lindsey Nyhagen once again found her stroke early and often through the first half of action against the Polar Bears. 

While business districts might have quieted down on a Friday evening, it was anything but for the Bearcats and Polar Bears as both attempted to find their downtown shooting prowess. Both teams tried to find that one critical perimeter shot to close out the second quarter, but both sides went cold to leave the score tied up, 18-18. 

Although the shots were not falling for either side, it was not entirely due to poor shot selection. Instead, a strong North Star defensive effort shut the Polar Bears inside and out. 

After the passing game showed its faults during the first game, the Bearcats began to adjust and lock down a few more passes that went on to net them critical go-ahead points. 

“Obviously, they played us man last night,” Vote said. “They went a little 2-3 zone, and tonight, we saw a box-and-one. Just over time, we will keep working on it. Our reads are cutting a little different if it’s man or 2-3, and just understanding that. That will come with experience. It is only game two. We have a lot of season left and a lot of practice left. Our girls really practice hard and listen, so we know we can keep improving, and we are just going to keep promoting to the girls that they can do it. If they believe in themselves, we really believe they can have a good year.” 

The Bearcats will play Nelson County on Dec. 4 at 12:30 p.m. CT in the consolation finals. 

Four Winds/Minnewaukan vs. Devils Lake JV (Dec. 3) 

Final score: 76-38 Four Winds/Minnewaukan

Scoring breakdown: 

    -      20-25-17-14: 76

    -      06-13-04-15: 38 

At a glance: 

The early-game jitters might have been apparent in the first game, but if the box score from the second game illustrated anything, those jitters were long gone. The Lady Indians scored in the double-digits in all four quarters and demonstrated their deep roster for all to see in what amounted to a 76-38 rout against Devils Lake JV. 

The Lady Indians started the game on a 16-2 run through the first four+ minutes and never looked back. Once the halfway mark of the second quarter was reached, the lead grew to 20+ points.

The Myona Dauphinais, Alionna Lawrence and Ezura Rainbow trio, supplemented with the likes of Mahpiya Jackson, proved to be too much for the Firebirds to handle. 

Four Winds/Minnewaukan center Ezura Rainbow attempts a shot against Devils Lake JV.

“I think they are still settling, and I think the chemistry is getting there,” Four Winds/Minnewaukan head coach Sean Gourd said after the game. “Again, it is not where we want it to be, but that was our first game of the year. It took us time to gel, and today we were a little more ready to go. The girls wanted it. They wanted to get back on the court and get after it. Today, we really did. We went up and down, [and] we pressured. I knew it was going to be a little more…not as sloppy, but we got up and down, and that’s what we wanted. Better bench being able to step in and help us out, keep them fresh. That goes a long way, and that is going to help us in the long run.” 

While the half-court traps, mid-court lobs and inside presses certainly gave the Lady Indians a notable leg up, it was their focus that proved to be the difference-maker. This x-factor is what the Lady Indians will look to kindle once more during the championship match. 

“Stay focused,” Gourd said. “Stay focused and stay hungry. That is going to be our motto, and be ready. We have to take it one game at a time and just be ready for whoever the winner of the next game is. We have played in this tournament three times in a few years now, and we have been to the championship a few times, but we have always come up second…I think the girls are ready to go get one tomorrow.” 

The Lady Indians will play Dunseith in the championship final at 3:30 p.m. CT on Dec. 4. 

Benson County vs. Dunseith (Dec. 3) 

Final score: 49-43 Dunseith 

Scoring breakdown: 

    -      08-13-13-15: 49

    -      10-11-14-08: 43

At a glance: 

The Benson County Wildcats held their collective breath when senior guard/forward Quinn Neppl exited the game against Larimore. What was the injury, and how severe was it? Wildcat players and fans alike waited to hear the diagnosis. 

“The injury was a dislocated finger,” Benson County head coach Kent Neppl said. “They couldn’t quite get it back in here, so she ended up going to the ER here in Devils Lake. They couldn’t help her out because she was so busy, so she ended up getting driven all the way to Rugby. Got her fixed, got home about midnight, she rested up and flat-out said, ‘I am coming ready to play tomorrow.’ She was amped up. She was ready to have a big game.” 

And have a big game Neppl did. Neppl helped keep the Wildcats in the hunt by collecting steals and drilling three-pointers. However, the Brailyn Davis and Tiyahna Trottier duo found enough space to send the Wildcats packing, 49-43. 

The Wildcats knew Davis and Trottier were looking to cause fits – their size alone (both were 6’0) looked to give the opposing offense an issue, and this was without accounting for their scoring potential on the offensive side. 

Benson County's Quinn Neppl prepares to guard on defense.

Neppl almost single-handedly used her shooting stroke to give the Wildcats a slim 35-34 lead through the third quarter against the Dragons. However, a Trottier layup with 27.9 seconds left gave the Dragons a 46-43 lead. This proved to be the final nail. 

“My goal was to be more physical than them,” Neppl said. “Playing good hard-nosed man defense and be physical with them and see if we could get them out of the comfort zone. It didn’t work. They got tired, but we also got tired, and we just couldn’t keep the physicality. We got pretty flat-footed on offense. We weren’t moving and weren’t cutting. It is a live-and-learn moment. These games are tough on kids because you are not quite in game shape yet. When you have a small bench like mine, it’s tough. It’s really tough.” 

Benson County will challenge Devils Lake JV at 2:00 p.m. CT on Dec. 4.