BISMARCK – The Valle Catholic Warriors had hopes of repeating as district champs, and they gave a very strong effort to make it happen as they forced the Meadow Heights Panthers into overtime before falling in their district semi-final game on Wednesday, 74-71.
Alex Thompson came off the bench to score clutch free throws in not only the end of regulation for the lead, but again in the extra period with the three winning points, to finish 6-8, scoring all of his points at the line for the Panthers.
The Warriors had a last shot at tying the game once again, but a three went off the rim to close out their chances of a repeat district title.
Thompson’s free throws at the end of regulation left just enough time for Valle’s Connor Basler to slash through the lane and score the tying bucket at 63-63 to extend the game an extra four minutes.
Dawson Lindgren came off the bench to score two baskets to give the Panthers the lead in overtime and force the Warriors to play catch up in the final minutes.
The Warriors struggled offensively in the final minute of OT, but Mason Skaggs and Cole Wood made offensive rebounds for putbacks to keep the Warriors within one, and Basler capped off a 20-point game with his last basket on a driving lay-up in the lane before fouling out with 30 seconds left.
Valle Catholic (17-11) took advantage of several poorly thrown passes by the Panthers to come from behind to post a 17-11 lead after the first quarter, but they couldn’t get hardly a shot to fall in the second, making only four of their 17 attempts.
Jacob Douglas and Lane Baremore both hit from downtown to put the Panthers back in front. The Warriors hung close as they pulled down five offensive boards to keep the ball on the offensive end.
Despite gaining a lead of 10, several throwaways in the third quarter kept the Panthers from pulling away to any significant length as the Warriors converted several into quick baskets in transition. A steal by Douglas resulted in a long feed to Baremore for the lay-in at the buzzer, giving the Panthers a 44-38 lead at the end of three.
Tristan Rolhaus converted a conventional three early in the fourth and then struck from the arc to tie the game at 48-48 with six minutes left to play. Skaggs buried a three to give the Warriors the lead at 51-50.
The Panthers lost their center Devin Wilfong with two minutes left, and also Blake Bollinger with one minute left in regulation. Both players fouled out with Wilfong leaving with 11 rebounds and Bollinger checked out with 14 points. Baremore led the Panthers in scoring with 22.
Coleman Keeley sank a pair of free thows and Basler added two more to knot the score up at 61-61.Colin Okenfuss and Keeley both finished with 10 points, and Wood’s putback in overtime finished his game at 11.
Meadow Heights will play Ellington on Friday in the championship game.