For Hettinger-Scranton girls basketball coach Kelly Pierce, it has been a season of tough challenges.
The Night Hawks were just a third seed in their own regional tournament.
But the defending Region 7 champions were able to repeat and earn a second straight trip to the state’s Class B basketball tournament.
Unfortunately, their first tournament foe was trying for a perfect season. The Cardinals of Langdon-Erdmore-Munich would succeed two days later, beating Grafton for the co-op’s first state title by a 52-41 margin Saturday. The Cardinals finished the season with a perfect 27-0 record.
The Grafton Spoilers were seeded second in the tournament, opening with a 61-45 victory over Rugby and knocking off Trenton in the semifinals by a 59-46 margin. Trenton edged Shiloh Christian 56-50 in their opener.
Fourth-seed Central Cass rolled over LaMoure-Litchfield/Marion by an 80-55 score in their opener before losing to the Cardinals (62-42) in the semifinals.
The Night Hawks opened the tournament Thursday against undefeated Langdon-Erdmore-Munich, the top-seed in the field of eight.
The two teams battled to a 16-16 tie in the first quarter, before the top seed held the Night Hawks to just four points in the second quarter to take a 24-20 halftime lead.
It was in the second half the game broke on the way to a 56-35 victory for Langdon-Erdmore-Munich.
In the third quarter, the Night Hawks were held to six points as Langdon put in 17 to give the top seed a 41-26 lead.
The pattern repeated in the final quarter, with the Night Hawks adding nine points while Langdon-Erdmore-Munich had 15.
Both teams struggled in shooting with Hettinger-Scranton hitting just 13 of 33 field goal attempts (39 percent), while the winners were just slightly better percentage-wise, hitting on 23 of their 54 attempts. While Langdon-Erdmore-Munich hit 10 more field goals, they only finished with a 42 percent success rate.
The Night Hawks hit 37 percent from long range (3 for 8) while Langdon-Erdmore-Munich fared far worse, hitting just 18 percent (2 of 11).
Hettinger-Scranton hit 6 of 9 from the free throw line.
The Night Hawks struggled with 22 turnovers, more than double their opponent’s total (10). The Hettinger-Scranton players were able to steal the ball six time, less than half the 15 times they were victimized.
Langdon-Erdmore-Munich finished the game with 17 points off Night Hawk turnovers, while Hettinger-Scranton got just three points.
Alyssa Andress led the Night Hawks with 14 points, while Samantha Oase followed with 12. Bailee Pierce, Carolyn Schultz and Quinn Melmer each added three points.
Morgan Freije led the victors with 18 points, followed by Callie Ronningen with 17. Kaylee Lowery and Lexis Olson both scored six points, and Kaitlynn Scherr put in five points. Jaya Henderson and Cora Badding each scored two points in the contest.
“Drawing the number one seed in the tournament, we knew we had a tough game ahead of us,” coach Kelly Pierce said. “We gave them a really good run in the first half. We were down just four points at halftime. “In the second half, we just had too many turnovers. We just got worn down.
“They are a big physical team and as the game went on, we got wore out a little bit mentally and physically. They went on to do the same thing to pretty much everybody else the played up there (in the tourney). It was a tough draw. We thought that we could get some things taken care of during the game, but eventually, we just got wore out,” the coach said.
After the opening loss in the tournament, the Night Hawks met fifth-seed LaMoure-Litchfield/Marion in the consolation bracket Friday.
The fifth seed won a 54-43 decision by dominating the first half.
“LaMoure came out in the first half and shot the ball really well. We dug ourselves a hole,” the coach said.
In the second half, the girls responded really well and played really hard to get back into the game. We just didn’t have enough time to make the full comeback.
“LaMoure was a really good team. They were quick and had really good guard play. They shot the ball extremely well in the first half. We didn’t play particularly well in the first half, but we came out in the second half with a lot of fire and grit and we fought our way back.
“We just were not quite able to come away with the win,” the coach said.
LaMoure was able to jump out to a 20-10 first quarter lead over the Night Hawks. Then, they went on a 17-2 run to take a 37-12 lead at halftime.
Hettinger-Scranton came back in the second half, outscoring LaMoure by a 31-17 margin over the final two periods, but it wasn’t quite enough.
The Night Hawks shot 36 percent from the field, hitting 17 of 47 shots, but even after LaMoure cooled down in the second half, they still finished with 21 of 53, for 39 percent.
LaMoure got a big edge in three pointers, hitting 7 of 23 (30 percent), while the Night Hawks finished with 4 of 20 (20 percent) from outside the arc.
Both teams picked up five points at the free throw line, while LaMoure had a seven to three edge in steals.
The Night Hawks finished the game with 17 turnovers.
LaMoure’s Ellie Holen led all scorers with 21 points, while Molly Musland followed with 19 and Kaylynn Siedschlag add 10. Molly Robbins and Allie Hebl each scored two points.
The Night Hawks were led Oase’s 20 points, while Andress finished with 13. Oase also had 14 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Melmer had five points, while Schultz scored three and Bailee Pierce added two.
Seventh place game
The Night Hawks met Shiloh Christian with a chance to claim seventh place Saturday afternoon in the state tournament at Betty Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.
It was the Sky Hawks edging Hettinger-Scranton squad by a very narrow 51-49 margin in the early game Saturday.
“It was another one of those games where they came out shooting really well. They went on a 16-0 run in the first half. We fell behind, 24-8,” the coach said. “We came all the way back to take the lead in the second half.
“They made a couple of big shots down the stretch and came away with the win. The girls really fought hard against a really good Shiloh team that has a lot of size and good guard play,” the coach said.
The Sky Hawks opened with a 13-6 lead in the first quarter and expanded it to 29-21 by halftime.
The Night Hawks came back in the third quarter, scoring 18 points, to take a 39-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But the Sky Hawks were able to rally late, have a 13-10 scoring edge to claim the two-point win.
Oase had her second double-double of the tournament, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Bailee Pierce scored 15 while senior Andress had 12 points for the Night Hawks in her final game. Melmer added two.
The Sky Hawks were led by Jaci Hall with 18 points, while Grace Kelly put in 12. Kennedy Walth scored nine points, while Kelsey Mische and Aliya Schock both finished with six points each.
The Night Hawks finished with 11 turnovers, while the Sky Hawks had eight.
“I am proud of the effort that the girls played with all weekend. It would have been nice to have come away with a win here and there, but the girls played really hard and that is all you can ever ask of them,” Pierce said.
“It is all about making baskets when you get there. Every team is good (in the state tournament). You can’t expect to hold everybody down. We had some offensive droughts. I thought the tournament was a very physical tournament. We played a lot of teams with a lot of size.
“Sometimes, the physicality of the game and how physical it can be can wear you out mentally and physically. When that happens, sometimes the shots don’t fall.
“I thought our kids played very hard. We just came up a few baskets short in those games,” he added.
The Night Hawks will be losing three players to graduation. Seniors Andress, Schultz and Melmer played their final prep basketball game in Grand Forks.
“Those are three seniors who have been really important to our program,” the coach said. “They have done a lot of good things for our program over the years. They will definitely be missed. They will be hard to replace.”
He will have four juniors returning for their final season in December, when Oase, Sidra Sadowski, Beth Lien and Casitee Miller come back.
“Sam Oase made the all-state all tournament team. She had another nice tournament for us,” the coach said.