When you boil it all down, the key ingredient in Tuesday's Century-Bismarck boys basketball showdown at the Event Center was Tanner Davis.
Davis, a 6-foot-2 senior, made the key play on both ends of the floor as time ebbed away, giving Bismarck a 55-53 victory over archrival Century.
With 1:45 to play, Davis sank a shot from just behind the free-throw line to score what proved to be the final points of the game, putting the Demons ahead 55-53.
Century missed six shots and turned the ball over twice in its final three possessions in vain pursuit of a tying or winning basket.
The final CHS possession ended on a steal by Davis. He plucked the ball away one pass after the Patriots in-bounded the ball with four seconds left.
"I poked it away from (Josh) Sipes. ... It was mostly instinct. I was moving toward the ball," said Davis, who scored a team-high 16 points.
BHS coach Jordan Wilhelm said his veteran team's experience showed on that critical in-bounds play as well as earlier in the evening.
"With the experience we have coming back, they're supposed to communicate to get us through those tough situations," Wilhelm noted.
Davis said the time from his winning basket to the final buzzer seemed to go on and on.
"It was a little nerve-wracking. ... We couldn't get a defensive rebound down the stretch. We got a couple of breaks and we stepped up our defense the last couple of (CHS) possessions," he observed.
Century, fresh off a 79-50 Saturday victory over top-ranked Minot, fell victim to inefficient offense. The Patriots shot just 35 percent (10-for-54) and coughed up the ball 16 times. Bismarck finished at 43 percent (24-for-53) with eight turnovers.
Bismarck kept Century at bay most of the first half, breaking a 6-6 tie and opening an 11-point lead at 18-7 before taking a 24-19 cushion into intermission.
Century came out of halftime like Gangbusters, however, running off 10 unanswered points to move ahead 29-24 on a pair of Sipes free throws with 14:57 to play.
Bismarck fought back, knotting the score at 38 on a pair of free throws by Joe Jahner with 9:59 on the clock.
From that point on, it was a free-for-all with ties a 42 and 53. Bismarck opened a 47-42 lead, only to watch it disappear on an 11-6 Century run. Kade Amundson pulled Century even at 53 by driving the left baseline with 2:48 to play.
From that point on, Davis was the only player to score. Century went 0-for-8 with two turnovers and BHS connected on its only shot and turned the ball over three times.
Wilhelm said the victory was gratifying in that it showed his team's resiliency.
"This is the kind of win that can give you confidence moving forward. ... We went from up six to down five as soon as the second half started," he noted. "The thing we've been preaching to the guys all year is being able to bounce back when adversity comes."
"Our guys had several opportunities to turn tail tonight, and they answered the bell," Wilhelm added.
Part of the adversity to which Wilhelm refers was prompted by personal fouls. Bismarck's big men -- 6-4 senior Jalen Ziegler, 6-3 junior Canyon Stonecipher and 6-3 senior Trajan Jangula -- totaled 13 fouls, which cut into their playing time. Ziegler fouled out with 10:42 to play and the other two were hampered defensively. Jangula picked up his fourth personal with 14:57 on the clock and Stonecipher drew No. 4 with 11:35 to play.
That allowed Amundson, Century's 6-6 senior post, plenty of room to work. He finished the night with 15 points -- 10 in the second half -- and eight rebounds.
Davis said he had no doubt Century was beatable.
"We had a good week of practice, and we had a good vibe. ... Last year we had two disappointing losses to them and we wanted to turn that around," he said.
Bismarck heads right back into action on Thursday, visiting Belcourt to take on Turtle Mountain. Century is off until Dec. 27, also at Belcourt.
Century 50, Bismarck 41
Century's girls weren't on the top of their game on Tuesday. They turned the ball over 25 times and were outrebounded 46-42 by Bismarck. Yet they won, 50-41.
The reason? That old standby, defense.
The top-ranked Patriots had 18 takeaways and held Bismarck to 22 percent shooting.
"Defense is the biggest staple for Century," said junior guard Lilly Keplin. "When the shots aren't falling and we're turning the ball over, they can't score if the ball isn't going into their basket."
Exactly. Bismarck rarely found the target amid a 3-for-27 first-half shooting debacle and finished at 14-for-63 (22 percent) for the game.
Century didn't sparkle, but swished 20 of 46 shots for a so-so 43 percent.
Still the Demons, who have no seniors on their team, showed some grit. Down 25-11 at halftime, they fell into a 40-18 hole on Keplin's 3-pointer with 6:09 to play.
Yet BHS soldiered on. Holding Century without a point for 7:27, Bismarck trimmed the deficit to 40-32 on MaKenzie Maher's driving layup with 5:23 to play.
Much of that 14-0 BHS run was the work of full-court pressure that helped produce nine takeaways.
Bismarck coach Bill Shetler said the Demons are going to have to get nightly production out of the press to be successful.
"That's part of our personality," he said. "... We wanted 36 minutes of (full-court) pressure, and that's what we try to do every game."
With its advantage trimmed to eight points, Century stabilized, to some degree. Bismarck cut the deficit to seven points on three occasions, but Century scored 10 of the final 19 points over the final seven minutes.
Keplin, a two-year starter, said a shaky floor game like Tuesday's in not unprecedented. She pointed to last year's 28-turnover early-season game against Mandan. And last December the Patriots had a 30-turnover outing at the Gillette, Wyo., Invitational.
"Even early last year we struggled with turnovers," she observed. "We're starting to get used to playing together and figuring things out. ... Hopefully, by the end of the year turnovers will be minimal."
As might be expected in a game that included 75 missed shots, the individual scoring performances were modest. Only two players scored in double figures, one from each team. Keplin paced unbeaten Century with 13 points and Mady Mosolf tallied 12 for Bismarck, now 3-2.
Bill Shetler said the Demons have shown enough in their 3-2 start go make him believe there's a terrific upside with this team.
"Absolutely. But we've known that for a couple of years," he said. "I told our girls that our ceiling is much higher than any other team in the WDA."
Century now takes a week off before traveling to Belcourt to face Turtle Mountain on Dec. 27. Bismarck returns to action on Thursday at Belcourt.