Decades in the making

Before heading off to attend their daughter’s region quarterfinal, two parents from Berthold fuel up their new car for $1.31 per gallon. On the way to the arena, they flip on the radio. A new hit song plays through the speakers of the Chevrolet Chevette, the most popular vehicle in the country. The tune is called “Jessie’s Girl” by a guy named Rick Springfield. It just debuted on the radio last month. Two hours later, the couple returns to their vehicle with all smiles. The Bombers advanced to the region semifinals.

That was a likely scene from March 1981, the last time Berthold made it past the first round of regionals, according to current Bombers coach Kayla Lambrecht.

Until Monday, when Berthold ended its 33-year drought and advanced to tonight’s Region 6 tournament semifinals by knocking off Bottineau 50-36 at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.

“The girls are pretty excited we still have two more games to play,” said the first-year coach Lambrecht, who, like her team, wasn’t even alive in 1981. “They wanted this game really bad just to get that far. They’re running on all cylinders right now.”

Berthold’s two seniors, forward Hannah Hornberger and guard Bethany Limke, combined to score 39 of the Bombers’ 50 points. Neither could believe the heights their program has reached – a program that hadn’t even played in a region tournament in five years.

The District 12 second-seeded Bombers play District 11’s top seed, TGU, at 6 p.m. tonight at the Aud.

“Not with how the program’s been the past few years,” said Hornberger, who snared a game-high 14 rebounds to go with 17 points. “It’s definitely exciting and we’re ready to go out and get them.”

Added Limke, the game’s top scorer with 22 points: “No, not really. I hoped we could. This is just awesome that we got this far. It’s really fun and it’s a great group of girls to work with.”

Berthold (15-8) outscored the Stars 16-8 in the third quarter to turn an 18-15 halftime lead into an 11-point bulge. The Bombers corrected the problems that Bottineau’s 1-3-1 zone caused. Before the break, Berthold committed 10 of its 11 turnovers and shot just 36.4 percent from the field and converted 1 of 9 free throws (11 percent).

“Bottineau came out in a different defense we weren’t used to seeing,” Lambrecht said. “That kind of stalled us out. We were able to work around it.

“At halftime, I talked to the girls – ‘Keep moving, keep cutting.’ We just kind of settled down on offense honestly, because we had 10 turnovers in the first half due to our feet being a little jumpy and traveling.”

Fortunately, the Bombers held Bottineau (13-10) to 23.3 percent shooting in the first half and 25.9 for the game. Berthold also finished with a 50-30 advantage in rebounds, as sophomore Mychal Fjeldahl grabbed 11 boards.

In the second half, the Bombers posted a 42.9 shooting percentage, drained 2 of 3 3-point attempts and hit 6 of 9 freebies. Limke dropped 14 of her 22 points in the final 16 minutes and Hornberger pulled down three of her four offensive boards, putting two back in for easy second-chance points. Junior forward Madison Erickson chipped in nine points for Berthold.

“I thought we did a good job with our zone against them, making them take some tough shots. But they also made some really tough shots,” Bottineau coach Joe Bender said.

The Bombers nearly matched their first-half output by scoring 16 in both the third and fourth quarters. As Bottineau’s offense found its rhythm down the stretch, Berthold scored on eight of its 11 possessions in the fourth quarter, including its final five, to stave off any potential Stars comeback.

“We just kept our confidence up, kept taking our shots,” Hornberger said. “We knew they’d fall.”

Berthold aims to avenge a 49-39 home loss to TGU on Jan. 25. Limke, who was ill, did not play in that contest.

“It’s going to be a good matchup,” Lambrecht said. “TGU has their big hitter in Mattie Schmitt and a good surrounding cast.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.