The NDSCS Wildcats defeated the Lake Region State College Royals 82-72 in the Region 13 Semifinals Thursday, April 1 at home to advance to the Region 13 finals.
“The last time we played them, we did not shoot the ball very well. I think our defense really dropped off. So we talked a lot about bringing that energy back defensively,” Wildcats Head Coach Stu Engen said.
The Royals had been hot on a seven-game win streak, winning nine of their last 10 games.
“Our goal was to break up a lot, really pressure and break up handoffs and try to force some turnovers and get after them a little bit, show our legs and athleticism and I thought we did that, forcing 18 turnovers,” Engen said.
He continued that rebounding and defensive intensity were keys to the team’s success, especially when shooting 37 percent from the floor.
“Basically it all boiled down to effort, I thought we had more effort especially on the defensive end,” Engen said.
The first half of the game ended with a narrow Wildcats lead over the Royals, 37-30.
In the second half, the Wildcats were able to hold a convincing double-digit lead over the Royals for the majority of the 20 minutes. The Royals were able to shave the Wildcats’ lead down to under 10 in some of the final minutes of the quarter.
The Wildcats were able to get a few more on the scoreboard and close the game out 82-72.
The Wildcats’ top scorers were JaQuan Sanders-Smith with 19 points, Connor Hollenbeck with 17 points and RaShaun Parker with 16 points.
Hollenbeck stood out to Engen for his effort throughout the night.
“He knocked down nine of 12 free throws, he got five offensive rebounds, I thought he had a really good game for us,” Engen said.
During the two teams’ regular season faceoffs, the Wildcats had bested the Royals twice. The Royals were able to defeat the Wildcats once in their most recent showing prior to the semifinals.
The Wildcats will now face off against the No. 1 seed Dawson Community College on April 5 for the Region 13 championship game in Glendive, Montana.