If anybody was unsure how good the St. Mary's girls basketball team is, that question was answered Wednesday in Fargo.

The fifth-ranked Saints (6-0) remained unbeaten with a 59-52 win over No. 2 Fargo Shanley in the Deacons' gym. It was the first loss of the season for Shanley (5-1).

The impressive road victory leaves St. Mary's and Century as the only two undefeated teams remaining in Class A.

"This is a great win for us. I'm really happy for the girls," St. Mary's coach Shannon Copas said. "Shanley is always strong and they definitely are this year. This was kind of a litmus test game for us to see where we're at.

"We knew this was a big game and the girls were excited for it. This is a good stepping stone for us."

The Saints' trademark Velcro defense allowed the Deacons just 26 points in both halves.

"We've really been focused on the defensive side of the ball in practice," Copas said. "We had to make a few adjustments at halftime. We wanted to step up our on-ball pressure and we were able to do a better job of that in the second half."

The Saints, who had won their first five games by an average of 28 points, trailed by nine in the second half, but were able to rally.

"We kind of had our backs against the wall in the second half. Call it grit or tenacity ... the girls did a really good job of turning it around," Copas said. "They didn't rattled. They just kept playing and probably the biggest thing is we were able to get some stops."

Both teams struggled shooting, but the Saints got another strong game from senior post Kaitlyn Wanner, who made 5 of 9 shots and posted a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Wanner also had three steals and a blocked shot.

Sydney Smith scored 13 points and dished out three assists. Taylor Gerving added 13 points for the Saints.

Sophomore Reile Payne paced the Deacons with 21 points. Senior Caira Berg finished with 13.

St. Mary's seems destined to climb even higher in the polls after Wednesday's win, although Copas said they are unconcerned with such matters.

"We're not really talking about it or concerned with that. Obviously, the girls are aware of it and they feel good to be in that conversation, but right now it doesn't mean a whole lot," Copas said. "They came in really motivated this year and hopefully a game like this will give them more confidence to keep working hard and improve every day."

The Saints continue a busy week today, playing at Moorhead at 6 p.m. The Spuds are 7-2. St. Mary's also will play on Friday at either 2 or 6 p.m., pending Thursday's result.

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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