New Rockford-Sheyenne splashes past Midway/Minto, 69-33

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – A Kennedy Demester three-point splash less than three minutes into the third quarter was followed by another downtown dime from the senior. Of course, what stood out from the sequence was that it took place on near-consecutive possessions. 

Demester was not the sole shooter finding basket after basket for the New Rockford-Sheyenne Rockets Saturday afternoon. Kelsie Belquist, Mya Cudworth and Kaiya O’Connor found the necessary stroke from the inside and outside lanes, too. 

Senior Kennedy Demester (blue) dribbles the basketball on a takeaway against Midway/Minto.

The offensive prowess from the quartet, combined with a sturdy half-court defense, helped net the Rockets the 69-33 victory against the Midway/Minto Mustangs on “Class B Day” at Sweetwater Gym on Jan. 15. 

Consistency needed to be New Rockford-Sheyenne's x-factor. However, it wasn’t as simple as finding more consistency on the offensive end. Heading into Saturday’s contest, New Rockford-Sheyenne’s two leading scorers in Belquist and Demester were both double-digit point machines (15.2 PPG and 11.3 PPG, respectively). 

Consistency, however, was needed not just from the pair but from the supporting cast behind them. Eighth-grader Ava Peterson was the next highest scorer (7.4 PPG). 

Finding points from the supporting cast looked to be the priority for the Rockets. Luckily for the team, supplementary players stepped up, including O’Connor. The ninth-grader tallied a pair of mid-range jumpers and a half-court steal to open the first quarter. The Rockets outscored the Mustangs 29-15 during the first half. 

“We haven’t shot that well like we did today,” New Rockford-Sheyenne head coach Elliott Belquist said after the game. “So, it was good to see us hit some perimeter shots. We have been waiting for a couple of our girls to step up and put some points on the board. They did today. Kaiya [O’Connor] had a great start…made the first six points quick there. That is what we need out of some of them…to find a few more points out of them. So, that was good.”   

“We have had a couple of rough patches this season,” senior Kennedy Demester said after the game. “Coach [Belquist] just said we need to be more confident. I came out with a confident attitude, and if they fall, they fall. They were falling today.” 

The Rockets, however, did not halt the offensive production after the first half. Instead, the Rockets built on their 14-point lead. So much, in fact, that New Rockford-Sheyenne tallied a 27-point third quarter, due in large part to their downtown dominance. Demester, O’Connor and Belquist all nailed at least one three-pointer during the third quarter. 

Experience from previous games helped New Rockford-Sheyenne adjust during the second half. 

“They [Midway/Minto] went man the whole first half,” Belquist said. “When it came to that zone, we talked about the last couple of games. Harvey [Wells-County], obviously we got a good look at the 2-3 zone, so we have been practicing a little bit. We talked about ball movement. Get that ball moving and rotating. Look for that post, [and] open shots are going to come after you make a few passes in that zone. Kennedy [Demester] and a few of them hit some open shots.” 

Sophomore Kelsie Belquist (center) shoots at the line against Midway/Minto.

During the bulk of the fourth quarter, a running clock helped quell any chance of a Mustang comeback. Nevertheless, it was communication where the Rockets truly shined. 

In Demester’s mind, concise communication might prove to be an x-factor during the stretch run. 

“We definitely had a lot of communication today,” Demester said. “We haven’t had that, but we definitely all worked together better than we have in the past. I think we all finally were, like, ‘it’s go-time.’ The season needs to get serious.” 

Contact John Crane via email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter @johncranesports)