It’s been a season filled with peaks and valleys for North Dakota State College of Science. They’ve pulled through for massive wins and have also dropped some tight games, but everything led up to the Region 13 Championship on Sunday, March 1.
The Wildcats took on the hosting Bismarck State College Mystics and found themselves down by 11 at the end of the opening quarter. Science kicked it into gear with a 30-point second quarter, which carried into the second half of their 80-65 victory.
“It was a an extremely solid performance after a year where we battled some adversity throughout the middle of the year. To see it kind of come back to the top of the mountain again was nice to see,” NDSCS coach Tom Dryburgh said.
Justyna Butler, who buried a trio of 3-pointers in a 13-point performance, showed why her leadership at the point is so valuable to NDSCS. The sophomore spearheaded the rally in the second period to swing momentum in their favor.
“I thought that we got to a point in the second quarter where we knew we needed to play a little bit better,” Dryburgh said. “Justyna Butler kind of led the charge to get us going and everybody followed. It was kind of a total team effort, but she started that charge. She made a couple shots to kind of get us going.”
Butler was joined in double figures by Zaraya March (15), Emily-Kate Parker (14), Nikki Metcalfe (11) and Kate Carlson (10). Science knocked down 11 from 3-point land with Parker sinking four of them off the bench.
“It was one of those situations where the ball started going in and I think everybody built some confidence within themselves to go out and knock down shots,” Dryburgh said. “EK came in and knocked down some big shots when we were in the middle of that run in the second. We knew we had the ability to knock down shots and we haven’t consistently, but it’s become a lot more consistent in the last month. It was nice to see her get us rolling in that phase.”
Dryburgh was thrilled for his sophomore class after the work they put in heading into this year. The players came up short of the region title in their freshman campaign last season with Miles Community College taking home the hardware. The Wildcats got their revenge on the Pioneers, ending their season with a 64-59 win in the semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 29.
“They’ve put in two good years,” Dryburgh said. “Obviously they’ve grown up a lot from last year to this year and to see it come to fruition now has been very fun.”
The Wildcats (26-6) will turn around to host their district championship game. Their opponent will be the winners of the Region 4 championship, which hadn’t started at press time. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 7 with the winner moving on to the national tournament.
“It’s a nice reward to be able to come home again and play one more home game in front of your home fans,” Dryburgh said. “Obviously you never know when you finish your regular season if you’ll be back so this will be the last home game for us this year and it would be nice to go out with a victory.”