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Sister act 3: Henningsgard trio leads Central Valley into Class B state tournament

Buxton, N.D. - The workout was a simple one-on-one defensive drill, one player with the basketball and the other with the assignment of denying a basket.

Buxton, N.D. - The workout was a simple one-on-one defensive drill, one player with the basketball and the other with the assignment of denying a basket.

When sisters Jessica and Taylor Henningsgard square off, however, there's nothing simple about Central Valley girls high school basketball drills.

"Taylor was driving and we were really getting physical, shoving each other," Jessica Henningsgard said. "She shot and missed and I rebounded. The next time I had the ball, she gave me a push; she blasted me. I fell backwards. It got more and more heated after that. Once practice was over, we were fine. But we are competitive."

Said Taylor Henningsgard: "That's just another practice for us. It gets heated whenever we go against each other. It's not a sibling rivalry thing. We just love to compete."

That competitiveness has helped Central Valley advance to this week's North Dakota state Class B girls basketball tournament for the first time since 1997. When the Valiants meet Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock in a 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal game Thursday in Bismarck, the Valiants' lineup will include senior Jessica Henningsgard, sophomore Taylor Henningsgard and freshman Kennedy Henningsgard.

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Sheryl Solberg, an assistant to the executive secretary at the North Dakota High School Activities Association since 1978, couldn't remember the last time three siblings were starters in the Class B girls state tournament. "I think it's pretty rare," Solberg said.

Big numbers

The Henningsgard sisters put up big numbers for the Valiants.

Jessica, a second team all-state pick last season, paces the 21-4 Valiants with a 15.2 scoring average. Taylor is second with a 10.3 scoring average while leading the team in rebounds (6.9 rpg) and assists (5.2 apg). Kennedy is third on the team with a 9.9 scoring average.

Beyond the averages, however, the sisters bring an attitude.

"Off the court, they're more mellow, happy-go-lucky kids," Valiants coach Rick Sondrol said. "They're friends with everybody. But they're different on the court. They're intense. And you crank that intensity up another notch when they go against each other.

"Kennedy backs down a little to her sisters, probably because she's the youngest. But Jess and Taylor don't back down. We don't match them up against each other every day in drills. But when we do, you're in for a treat."

Jessica also downplays the notion of a rivalry. The sisters compete not only to win, but to improve.

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"It does get pretty intense at times," the senior said. "But it's more trying to push each other to get better

"We're good friends. We hang out together. We have the same interests, so we do a lot of things together."

While the trio grew up playing basketball together, they bring different areas of expertise to the lineup.

Jessica is an outstanding perimeter shooter. Kennedy is a perimeter shooter as well as a penetrator. Taylor is a playmaker, with the ability to drive, draw defenders, find open teammates and pass accurately in traffic.

"We all have favorite things we do," Taylor Henningsgard said. "It just has happened that they're all different things. And if we can do different things, it makes the team better."

That falls in line with the entire team.

Katrina Lazur's specialty is defending in the post. Andra Lenz is a good perimeter shooter and defender on the wing. Jessica Sundbom and Brittany Schultz have been sparkplugs off the bench.

Sondrol said it is a team that hasn't had issues as far as who is getting the points. "I think all the girls on the team are pretty close," Sondrol said. "In some years, I've seen more drama on a team. But we haven't had that drama this year. The kids have really accepted their roles."

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A dream come true

This is a season that the Henningsgards have looked forward to for several years.

"Kennedy used to say she hoped she would get to play as a freshman," Jessica Henningsgard said. "We wanted to play together. We hoped we'd get to state. Now that we are going, it's very special, pretty indescribable."

And, the sisters are aware, there's also a finality involved with the three state tournament games.

"It makes it more special, being able to play in a state tournament with your sisters," Taylor Henningsgard said. "And this will be our last games together. That makes it even more special."

DeVillers is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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