Offensive woes bite Wolves again

FARGO – On the second day of spring, Watford City’s offense reverted to a winterlike hibernation during the fourth quarter of its Class B state tournament consolation game Friday afternoon at the Fargodome.

No. 6 Lakota-Edmore held the Wolves scoreless for the first 6 1/2 of the final frame to transform a tight contest into a rout. Watford City fell 58-41 and will play No. 2 Thompson at 1 p.m. today for seventh place.

“Start of the fourth quarter, you think you’re right where you need to be,” Watford City coach John Zenz said. “They get a bucket, we don’t, they get another bucket, we don’t. We weren’t able to keep them in check.”

For much of the afternoon, Watford City held the Raiders in check just fine. But for the second straight game, offense was a complete chore.

The Wolves (20-7) made 16 of 46 shots for 34 percent and committed 19 turnovers barely 16 hours after posting a .259 shooting percentage and 18 turnovers against No. 8 Central Cass in the quarterfinals. Watford City has scored seven points or less in five of eight quarters in its first state tournament appearance since 2011.

“Offensively, we need to get better,” Zenz said. “We’re kind of outmuscled or outstrengthed in some cases. We need to get bigger, stronger, faster. We’ve got to be able to score offensively against good, quality teams, which is what you run across at the state tournament.”

Watford City, whose tallest regulars measure 5-foot-9, found little in the easy basket department. Lakota-Edmore’s length, highlighted by 6-footers Fallyn Freije and Shay Ronningen, protected the paint and cleaned up the glass. The Raiders allow barely 44 points per game, but gave up 64 in a loss to Bishop Ryan on Thursday. Friday was much different.

“Last night was just one of those where we gave them too much in the first quarter. I think it could’ve been a good game if we didn’t get lost in the first quarter,” Lakota-Edmore coach Duane Connell said. “Today, they played good for four quarters. A little slow in the first quarter, but they got it back going.

“Defense is always there for us. As long as we play good defense, our offense will sooner or later come around.”

Watford City led 15-6 with 2:30 to left in the first quarter before Lakota-Edmore settled in.

The Raiders (19-7) answered with a 6-0 spurt late in the first and then outscored the Wolves 20-7 in the second, including a 12-0 run that gave them the lead for good.

“Defensively, we did a pretty good job again, but we struggled to score,” Zenz said. “We had a good first quarter today. After that it was a struggle again.”

Watford City, which trailed 32-24 at the break, surged back within one possession of the lead in the third quarter. Aided by a technical foul on the Lakota-Edmore bench and ensuing free throw, the Wolves ran off seven of nine points to cut the deficit to 38-35 with 1:12 left in the third. They trailed by four heading into the final frame, when the Raiders posted the first 14 points. Ronningen nailed back-to-back jumpers from the left corner to kick-start the Raider barrage.

“It was just basically being patient with the basketball and relaxing, taking their time, making sure to see what the defense is doing and pass it accordingly,” Connell said. “And then just keep on pushing it offensively. We knew we’d tire them out.”

Freije, a junior, was dominant on both ends with 15 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. Ronningen tallied a game-high 21 points and eight boards. The Raiders play Kidder County for fifth place at 2:45 p.m.

Ricki Lindley paced Watford City with 12 points, while Katie Mogen added seven points and 10 rebounds.

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