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Roncalli blocks Sully Buttes to remain unbeaten

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Madelyn Bragg (2) makes a move to the basket between Sully Buttes’ Calleigh Chicoine, left and Lydia Hill (24) during Monday night’s game at the Roncalli High School gym. Bragg finished with nine points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. Photo by John Davis taken 12/20/2021

The defense was back in full force.

Aberdeen Roncalli, known for its defensive intensity, cranked it up to its highest level so far this sesason Monday night at Roncalli Gym.

The top-rated Cavaliers blocked 10 shots, forced 20 turnovers and claimed a 51-24 non-conference girls’ basketball win over Sully Buttes.

“I think we did a better job just playing man-to-man defense. I thought over the last couple of games we’ve kind of fallen into some bad habits a little bit. This is probably the best defensive game we’ve played of the year,” said Roncalli coach Derek Larson. “There’s no rhyme or reason. I thought we all just bought in maybe a little bit more and gave a better effort on the defensive end.”

When the Cavaliers weren’t stepping into the passing lanes to create turnovers, they were forcing Sully Buttes deep into the shot clock, causing two turnovers on clock violations.

“They’ve got size, they’ve got speed, they’ve got quickness,” said Sully Buttes coach Mark Senftner, “and they get after the ball.”

Roncalli bolted out of the blocks quickly, grabbing an 18-3 advantage. However, the Chargers settled down and got back in the game with a solid second quarter.

Sully Buttes players, mainly Stevie Wittler and Calleigh Chicoine, repeatedly got to the rim and as the Chargers stayed within striking distance.

“We gave up too much dribble drive the second quarter, especially,” Larson said. “Wittler got to the rim well, (Chicoine) man, she’s good with her left hand. She did a really good job getting to the rim today.”

That changed in the second half when Roncalli held the visitors to just six points.

“I thought we did a much better job the second half, just guarding your own girl, not giving up dribbling penetration,” Larson said. “I think we were really locked in, especially the second half.”

Madelyn Bragg was a force in the lane on both the ends of the floor, especially on defense where she blocked seven shots and altered numerous others.

The 6-foot-2 senior said the Chargers had Roncalli’s attention going into the contest.

“I think we knew how aggressive Sully Buttes really is. They have a couple of key players that really like to drive hard to the rim and we knew that if we didn’t play our best defense we could have easily lost this one,” Bragg said. “We really played well on the defensive end.”

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Morgan Fiedler goes after the ball between Sully Buttes’ Stevie Wittler, bottom left and Addison Chicoine, center, during Monday night’s game at the Roncalli High School gym. Looking on are the Chargers’ Lydia Hill (24) and the Cavaliers’ Madelyn Bragg, back right and Ella Hanson (12). Photo by John Davis taken 12/20/2021

Morgan Fiedler led a balanced Roncalli scoring attack with 15 points. Olivia Hanson added 12, Bragg nine and Jeci Ewart eight. Bragg also hauled down nine rebounds.

Senftner noted that Roncalli returns four starters from it Class A state championship team of a year ago.

“They have the experience,” he said, “and this is the first big game that we’ve been in.”

Lydia Hill’s seven points topped a balanced effort for the Chargers.

While Roncalli does have a veteran squad with loads of big-game experience, that also comes with the added pressure of being expected to win most times out. Bragg said the Cavaliers are a measuring stick for opponents.

“You know that every single team is going to bring their best effort for every single game,” Bragg said. “They’re not going to slack off, because that would be a great thing to say, we beat the state tournament champs. It’s a little nerve wrecking sometimes.”

Roncalli hosts Herreid-Selby Area on Tuesday, Dec. 28 at Roncalli Gym.

Larson expects another battle against a team that played in last year’s State B tourney and features a top player in Kendell Sawinsky.

“Man, she’s a good player. I watched her on film. She’s really good going both ways. She can really shoot it,” Larson said. “They’re definitely not a team that we’re going to look past by any means.”

SULLY BUTTES: Ally Wittler 1 0-0 2, Tailynn Bradford 1 0-0 2, Lydia Hill 3 1-2 7, Calleigh Chicoine 3 0-0 6, Stevie Wittler 3 0-0 6, Addison Chicoine 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 2-4 24.

ABERDEEN RONCALLI: Madelyn Bragg 4 1-3 9, Morgan Fiedler 7 0-0 15, Jeci Ewart 3 0-0 8, Olivia Hanson 5 2-4 12, Ella Hanson 1 2-2 4, Maddie Huber 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 5-9 51.

Sully Buttes 5 18 20 24

Aberdeen Roncalli 18 31 44 51

3-point field goals – Fiedler, Ewart 2, Huber. Total fouls – Sully Buttes 6; Aberdeen Roncalli 9.

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