CLASS B NOTEBOOK: Rugby defense keying strong start

Scoring the basketball is a nice concept to have, but against Rugby this season that mission has proven downright daunting.

The Panthers are allowing less than 40 points per game and in five of their nine contests opponents have failed to score more than 35 points.

“If we can make them work, get the ball to 10 seconds on the shot clock well, they’ve had to work hard on the offensive side,” Rugby coach Mike Santjer said. “We can throw quite a few guys that have played quality defense.”

The Panthers benefit from constantly changing defensive schemes. Sometimes Rugby will go straight man-to-man. Other times, the Panthers have gone with a 1-3-1 trap or a 2-3 zone.

“(Defense has) kinda been our staple for the last four or five years,” Santjer said. “We didn’t have a lot of kids that were capable of scoring. But we did have quick, capable kids. We knew we had to hold teams to a manageable numbers so we can score those pints. We were kinda at a point where we couldn’t score with a lot of teams unless we held them to a low number of points.”

The low point totals have greatly benefited Rugby, which at 8-1 is firmly in the hunt for a Region 6 championship. The Panthers have already defeated two top five teams (then-No. 3 Cavalier and then-No. 5 Des Lacs-Burlington) this season.

Velva wrestling getting added relief

The Velva wrestling team has tasted defeat just once this season, a 39-35 loss to Stanley-Powers Lake-Tioga-Ray spoiling perfection.

Outside of that Dec. 20 dual, the Aggies have rarely been challenged. Among the wins: blowout victories against Rugby (57-0), Kenmare-Bowbells (60-12) and Rolla-St. John (66-12) and a 40-36 win against Region III foe Bishop Ryan.

The Aggies recently returned two of their top wrestlers for the Harvey-Wells County tournament and are now in position to excel at a higher level. Billy Bridges went 1-2 at heavyweight. Meanwhile, Taylor Barstad, who missed time due to mono, went 2-0 with a pin and a technical fall at the 220-pound weight class.

“We were bumping kids up,” Velva coach Chad Barstad said of his son’s absence. “Kids were giving up 20, 25 pounds. Kids were trying to cover for him being out. His first match, I don’t know if it was just nerves. He looked really rusty. His second match he looked more like himself. Just getting over the nerves right now is the biggest thing for him.”

In the meantime, Velva will compete for region accolades with a handful of grapplers having fantastic seasons. Robert Finneseth (9-3 at 120), Mason Brudevold (10-2 at 132), Dallas Osborn (9-2 at 145), Adam Dean (11-0 at 152), Hunter Schreiner (11-1 at 160), Kiel Werre (11-0 at 182) and Jimi Bridges (12-0 at 195) have all won at least 75 percent of their matches.

“Right now we’re all coming together,” Chad Barstad said.

Carrington off to strong start

The Carrington boys basketball team is 8-0, poised to return to the level of play that won the Cardinals a state championship in 2010.

The team’s major strength: size. Austin Johnson and Scott Burnham are each 6-foot-5 post players averaging double-figure point totals.

One thing that could stand in the way of the fifth-ranked Cardinals making a state championship run is the level of opposition within Carrington’s own region. The Cardinals may have to deal with No. 2 North Star and No. 7 Four Winds-Minnewaukan in the Region 4 tournament.

Carrington gets both in the regular season. The Cardinals travel to FW-M on Jan. 25 before hosting North Star on Feb. 2.

“They’re going to be really good games,” Carrington coach Matt Hone said. “Setting yourself up against Four Winds for the district tournament and the seeding from there is important.”