Slow start dooms Watford City

FARGO – At halftime, Watford City had a touchdown.

Playing at the Fargodome – home of three-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State – the Wolves’ offense struggled mightily in its 47-38 Class B state tournament quarterfinal loss to No. 8 Central Cass on Thursday evening.

After trailing 19-7 at the break, a 26-point eruption in the third quarter put Watford City within two possessions of the lead, but its slow start proved too much to overcome.

“We haven’t ran across a man defense in a long time,” Watford City coach John Zenz said. “We’ve played against a lot of zones. We looked rusty at times.

“But halftime, we came out and we were only down 12. We were still in the game. We came out, we made some runs at them. … We got there, but we couldn’t quite get over the hump.”

Watford City, led by sophomore center Katie Mogen’s 19-point, nine-rebound performance, erased most of what once stretched to a 14-point deficit. The Wolves, closed to 32-28 and ended the third quarter down 38-33. But the final push over the hump never came.

“I thought our defense was really good that first half, but we knew we weren’t going to hold them to that in the second half because they’re a region champion, also,” Central Cass coach Ryan Mears said. “They’re here for a reason. John’s got a good team and they work really hard.”

Central Cass matched the Wolves shot for shot midway through the third quarter, when Watford City knocked down 10 of its 15 field goals.

The Wolves finishing with a .257 shooting percentage (15-58), and made 5 of 42 field-goal attempts outside of the third quarter.

The Squirrels (23-3) hit 19 of 41 shots, making up for their 24 turnovers. Six-foot-3 senior center Faith Dooley and classmate Abby Cramer tallied 13 and 11 points, respectively. Dooley, a Miss Basketball finalist, also snared 13 rebounds.

“We knew going in that it was going to be a scrappy battle,” Mears said.

Central Cass’ win sets up a rematch of last year’s state championship game for tonight’s 8:15 quarterfinal against No. 1 Bishop Ryan. The Lions won that contest 54-50.

“They might be talking about that (in the locker room) now,” Mears said, grinning. “We didn’t talk about that at all. We had to take care of Watford City first, and that was a big thing.

“Go home and watch some tape tonight and get ready for a really good Minot Ryan team. There’s a reason they’ve been No. 1 all season, haven’t lost a game in two years.”

Watford City, which led 4-0 before the Squirrels finished the first quarter on an 11-0 run, play No. 3 Lakota-Edmore at 2:45 p.m. today in a consolation semifinal.

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