New Town handles Watford City 69-56

WILLISTON – Bae-leigh Brady has a simple strategy when it comes to scoring: “If you’re open, shoot it.”

The New Town High School junior guard made the game look that easy at the start of the Region 8 Championship on Thursday. She hit her first four 3-point attempts in the first three minutes of the Eagles’ 69-56 win over Watford City at Williston State College.

Brady, who averaged just 1.5 treys per game in the regular season, cooled off after the fourth triple, but finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the Eagles (25-1) to a second consecutive state tournament appearance.

“She pretty much gave us the motivation to keep it going,” New Town junior forward Gabby Wilkinson said. “She got our hopes up, she got our adrenaline up. … Her 3s helped a lot. We wouldn’t have won it without her.”

New Town is on a 24-game win streak and will play Region 2 champion Thompson on Thursday in the first round of the state tournament in Fargo. The Tommies beat Hillsboro-Central Valley 58-50 in overtime.

Wilkinson and senior Taylor McGrady finished with 15 points apiece for New Town and freshman Jaye Two Bears was a point away from joining them in double figures.

“They really shot the ball well to start the first half,” Watford City coach John Zenz said. “They just shot lights out. We got ourselves too far down. We stayed with them that first quarter, but they kept making shots, making shots and making shots and we couldn’t hang with them.”

The Wolves (19-3) kept it interesting after Brady’s early onslaught.

Senior guard McKayla Haugeberg, the region’s senior athlete of the year, and freshman Katie Mogen traded buckets on an 11-2 run to end the first quarter and Watford City trailed by two.

McGrady opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and her third trey of the quarter extended the Eagles’ lead to 13. Two Bears converted a 3-point play with three seconds remaining and New Town led 42-26 at the half.

“Every one of our girls can put the ball in the basket, so it’s not like they can shut down one or two and we become ineffective on offensive,” New Town coach Orville Drosdal said. “So it’s nice to have that balance and that depth.”

Sophomore guard Kara Langerud’s 3-point play in the closing seconds of the third quarter made the score 51-44, but that was as close as the Wolves came after the half. Mogen led Watford City, whose only three losses came to the Eagles, with 19 points and Haugeberg finished with 16.

Brady fittingly put the final touch on the championship with an easy layup after freeing herself with a pass fake on the drive.

“I was just ready to play,” she said. “Just bringing my ‘A’ game, you know, that’s what you have to do for every game.”

The Eagles finished eighth at state last year. They last saw Thompson (22-2) in a summer tournament. New Town’s only loss was to No. 1 Bishop Ryan (24-0) on Dec. 15. Despite the lowly finish last year, the Eagles are confident in a deeper run next week.

“I think we learned a lot last year,” Wilkinson said. “We prepared ourselves more this year than we did last year. Last year, we just wanted to get to state. Now we want to win it.”