Cats, 'Dawgs clash over Region 3 crown

Feb. 23—KILLDEER — The saying, "Fighting like cats and dogs" has never been truer than on Feb. 22, 2024 as Bowman County and Central McLean battled for the Division B-Region 3 Girls Basketball Tournament title, and now the Bulldogs will be heading to the Division B state tourney for the second-consecutive season after topping the Cougars, 46-43. It was a game for the ages in front of a packed house at Killdeer High School and the crowd was treated to a gritty and tightly contested final show that was preceded by Grant County/Mott-Regent's 51-42 win over Hettinger-Scranton.

The Class B Girls State Tournament is scheduled to begin on Feb. 29, 2024 at the Jamestown Civic Center and Grant County/Mott-Regent will be heading to a state-qualifying game at Minot on Saturday, Feb. 24 versus Kenmare/Bowbells at 6 p.m.

Bowman County's win came through sheer guts and determination in a game that went all the way to the final buzzer. The fourth quarter, alone, featured a pair of ties and three lead-changes and saw the 'Dawgs calmly convert 4-of-6 shots from the free-throw line down the stretch while the Cougars tried to claw their way back into contention with a thrilling 3-pointer that brought the Central McLean faithful to their feet with only 20.6 seconds remaining.

Before that, however, the first quarter ended with the Cougars up, 13-11, and Central McLean freshman Morgan Snyder dropped in a trey to close out the frame. Junior forwards Sophia Headley and Raegen Honeyman both connected from behind the arc for the Bulldogs and Cougar junior Adlyn Eng responded with 8 of her game-high 18 points for CMHS.

"It feels so good and we worked so hard for it since the summer; we knew what our goal was and we knew we had to get here and we did it," Headley said.

BCHS's defense closed down Central McLean in the second quarter — limiting them to only 5 points — and the Bulldogs scored 10 while converting 4-of-4 from the charity-stripe. Senior guard Jaci Fischer, who was named the Region 3 Tournament Senior Player of the Year, scored 4 of her team-high 14 in the lead-up to the halftime buzzer and the 'Dawgs took a narrow, 21-18 lead into the break after closing out the quarter on a 6-2 run.

The teams kept up the pressure on each other as they emerged from the locker rooms after the break, as Honeyman notched another 3 and the Bulldogs sank 3-of-4 from the free-throw line and ended the third quarter on a 6-3 run to provide a thin, 31-27 cushion heading into the final eight minutes.

"We just knew Central McLean was out to get us, we played them in the regular season and we came out with a win in the regular season (57-46 on Feb. 5)," Honeyman said. "But we knew they were going to come at us even harder — and they did — but we had to really fight for our win because we knew we wanted it really bad."

The Cougars came out gunning in the fourth period, with senior guard Leah Jacobson connecting from behind the arc along with a pair of 3s from Eng, while Snyder poured in 4 of her double-digit 15 points for Central McLean. The game was tense throughout, with two more ties and three lead-changes, but the Bulldogs helped themselves to a 7-1 run at about the 3:20 mark that might have made the difference as Fischer dropped in a trey and BCHS took a 42-38 lead.

Snyder sank a field goal to close the score to 44-40 in favor of the Bulldogs and then Eng dropped in a 3-pointer to narrow the gap to a single-digit, but Bowman County was able to convert 2-of-4 from the free-throw line and outlast the Cougars as their 3-point attempt didn't hit the mark.

Headley ended up with 13 points and Honeyman scored 11, with all three of Bowman County's standouts being named to the All-Region 3 Team along with Snyder, Eng and Reagan Kjelstrup from Central McLean, Emily and Cara Schlehr from Garrison, Summer Meyer and Samatha Greff from GC/M-R, Chev Obering of Washburn, AshLynn Christensen from Richardton-Taylor, New Salem-Almont's Alaina VanderWal, and Laela Jensen from Hettinger-Scranton.

"It means a lot; these girls just put in a lot of hard work and they're so fun to be around and they deserve it," said Bowman County head coach Jaci Mrnak, who was recognized as Region 3 Coach of the Year. "They played so hard tonight and I'm just extremely proud of them.

Grant County/Mott-Regent held Hettinger-Scranton to only 3 points in the first quarter and blasted off to a 26-17 lead at the half on the strength of a pair of 3s and 12 first-half points from sophomore standout Jada Ottmar, which went along nicely with Ameerah Rosin's 6 points and another trey from Samantha Greff. Hettinger-Scranton's sophomore guard Kinley Stadheim found the mark from behind the arc, along with junior forward Sienna Burwick, but the Nighthawks limped into the half with a double-digit deficit.

Jada's sister Jazlyn Ottmar connected on a 3-pointer and scored 7 of her 9 points in the third, but Burwick kept matters close with another 3 and junior guard Laela Jensen went bananas in the second half, scoring 13 of her game-high 16 points — which included two from behind the arc — in the final 16 minutes of play.

Greff, who scored in double-figures with 11, added another trey to the mix, but even more crucial was the Jaguars free-throw shooting, during which they converted 6-of-12 in the final frame and 10-of-18 on the night. Kinley Stadheim was the only other Nighthawk in double-digits with 10 points, which included 5-of-6 from the line.

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