Red River girls basketball drawing on state tournament experience to repeat

Mar. 5—GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Red River girls basketball coach Kent Ripplinger knew when Jocelyn Schiller was in middle school that she'd be a key part of successful Roughrider teams.

What he didn't anticipate was the key roles others in Schiller's class would play in getting Red River to the top.

"You knew you could have success with this group just because of the type of kids they are," Ripplinger said, "in terms of just their work ethic and attitude. That can take you a long way."

Hannah Litzinger, who

nailed a three

Saturday to give Red River its first East region title since 2005, and Rylie McQuillan, are just two of the seven seniors who helped lead the Riders back to the state tournament, this time with the East's No. 1 seed.

Schiller leads Red River averaging 27.4 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and 5.3 steals per game. McQuillan averages 11.5 points per game, 2 made threes per game and 2.8 steals per game, while Litzinger averages 6.5 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game.

The Riders (22-2) are looking to repeat as state champions with a team full of players with tournament experience. Ripplinger said, like last year, everyone has taken a step forward.

"People had to step in and fill those roles and even take on bigger ones," he said. "I'm pretty proud of the fact that they stepped right in there and have done that."

This state tournament will be different for Red River. The Riders, who went 16-0 in EDC games this season, were expected to get back to the tournament this year.

And, as the defending champions, the Riders have a target on their backs, but it isn't something Red River is concerned about.

"The motivation is to be the best team we can be," Ripplinger said, "regardless of how bad the other team wants to beat us. That's been our mentality all year is to be the best we can be and now not worry about anything else. I think, for the most part, we've done that. But I would assume people are trying to beat us just like we're trying to beat them."

First up for the Riders is west No. 4 Bismarck St. Mary's in the quarterfinals Thursday at the Bismarck Event Center.

St. Mary's knocked off Mandan in the state qualifier game.

Red River knows about being the 4-seed — the Riders were last year.

"It feels like these guys are locked in, and they're ready to go," Ripplinger said. "We know that it's not a given, though. You just can't take anything for granted."

Coach: Kent Ripplinger.

Record: 22-2.

Top scorers: Sr. G Jocelyn Schiller 27.4 points per game; sr. G Rylie McQuillan 11.5 ppg; sr. F Hannah Litzinger 6.5 ppg; soph. F Ella Speidel 6.4 ppg.

State tournament history: Red River has won two state titles, including one last season, in 26 state tournament appearances.