Since the 2015-16 season, Rugby has made it to four state tournaments and suffered a devastating 49-47 loss to Kindred in the 2018-19 state championship. But the Panthers are back in the Great Eight and have hopes of winning a state title this weekend.

Rugby (21-3) will play No. 2-seed Grafton at 1 p.m. Thursday and have won three straight games coming into the state tournament. The Panthers are led by junior Brooke Blessum who is averaging 12.3 points per game, 8 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.5 assists this season. Second on the team in scoring is freshman Mykell Heidlebaugh (11.5 points per game). She’s become a solid player for Rugby and will only continue to get better as the years go by. Heidlebaugh will go after any rebound and is second on the team averaging seven per game. Junior Sarah Blessum is third on the team in scoring with 7.5 points per game as all five Panthers starters average close to five points a game or more.

Jen Brossart has a fairly deep team as she plays about 10 student-athletes every game. Coming off the bench is sophomore Anna Johnson (3 points per game), junior Gabi Sullivan (3 rebounds per game and 2.6 points), freshman Kendyl Hager (2.1 points per game), junior Riley Grove and freshman Joran Jundt who both average 1.5 points per game.

Interesting note: Ruby was ranked 20th in the preseason poll this season but for 10 straight weeks they were ranked in the top 10. However, the Panthers were unranked in the seasons final poll.

State tournament prediction:┬áRugby’s starting lineup is one of older lineups out of the Great Eight. Which you should know now that I’m a big fan of those teams when it comes to the postseason. Brooke Blessum is the leader and Heidlebaugh is kind of like the spark plug. Rugby has one of the toughest matchups in the quarterfinals as they’ll face off against No. 2-seed Grafton. I don’t believe the Panthers can get by the Spoilers but I do believe a fifth-place finish is where Rugby will end up. With no seniors on the Panthers roster this won’t be the last time they are in the Great Eight. Watch for Rugby to be heavy favorites for the 2020-21 state tournament.

Starting Lineup

Sarah Blessum | Jr. | G | 5-foot-4

Tesha Sobolik | Jr. | G | 5-foot-5

Brooke Blessum | Jr. | F | 5-foot-11

Mykell Heidlebaugh | Fr. | F | 5-foot-10

Bella McCabe | Jr. | C | 5-foot-10

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