Mandan took its fast start to the season over to Minnesota and showed no signs of slowing down.
The Braves defeated Melrose (Minn.) 71-58 in the championship game of the Crusader Classic in St. Cloud to improve to 7-0 on the season. The Braves, ranked No. 3 in Class A, last won the tournament in 2009.
"We couldn't have had a better start to the season, and obviously to come here and win this tournament is a really nice accomplishment for our team," Mandan coach Brandon Schafer said. "What I really like about our guys is that they won't let this define their season. They're not satisified by any means. We'll enjoy this tonight, but after their heads hit the pillow we'll forget about it and focus on St. Mary's."
Mandan turned in another efficient offensive performance in St Cloud. Of the Braves' 31 made baskets, 22 came off assists.
"We did a great job of sharing the basketball throughout the tournament," Schafer said. "Our big guys did a really good job of finishing around the basket and our guards deserve a lot of credit for putting them in situations where they could score."
Senior Trae Steckler capped off a big tournament with a team-high 25 points. Steckler went 12 of 14 from the floor and surpassed 20 points for the third straight game.
"Trae kinda broke out this week," Schafer said.
Sophomore Elijah Klein also turned in a strong performance with 25 points, making 10 of his 14 shots.
Camren Steckler added 10 points, pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds and shared high-honors in assists (5) with Easton Miller.
Mandan trailed 30-27 at halftime, but outscored Melrose 44-28 in the second half. Schafer expects his team's rising profile to mean stiffer tests in the second half of the season.
"We're not going to sneak up on anybody, but we've only played four conference games and seven total. We still have a lot of tough games coming up against good teams," Schafer said. "In the grand scheme our ranking and record doesn't mean much. We still have a lot of room for growth and that's what we'll be focusing on when we get back to practice."