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Century’s A.J. Jacobs averaged 12.8 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Patriots last year.

MIKE McCLEARY/Tribune

Being tagged a favorite to win something or other is as welcome to most coaches as an appointment with the IRS.

The Century girls basketball program seems to thrive on the life of a sitting duck, however.

This is the fourth straight season the Patriots have been tagged No. 1 in the West Region. Sitting atop the coaches' poll hasn't put them off their game the past three seasons. Over that span they've collected three regional tournament championships, a state title, a third place finish and a fifth place.

"That's good," CHS coach Ron Metz replied upon learning that his team was the West Region's top dog again. "I'm not saying that with arrogance. We don't mind it. We're used to it. It's where we want to be."

"But," he added, "there are teams there that can beat us if we don't play well. We're going to have to work harder than anyone to maintain where we want to be ourselves."

Century wasn't ranked No. 1 out of habit. With all-region players A.J. Jacobs, Hannah Jeske and Ann Govig returning to the starting lineup, the Patriots have an imposing nucleus.

Jacobs, a 6-foot senior, averaged 12.8 points and 8.1 rebounds to lead the Patriots to a 20-5 season. She also led the team in blocked shots with 22 and 3-pointers with 33. Jeske, a 5-9 senior, averaged 6.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. She sank 20 3-pointers and led the team with 65 steals and 43 assists. Govig, a 5-9 senior, was second on the team with a 10.6 scoring average and 6.2 rebounds a game.

Govig suffered a knee injury in the West Region tournament championship game. The injury required surgery, and she missed the rest of the basketball season, the track season and the soccer season. Metz had reconciled himself to Govig's absence until after the holiday break. Now the coach is optimistic that she could return earlier.

"She's getting stronger and coming back more and more, so we may have her a little sooner than we anticipated," Metz said. "We'll have to take it day by day."

The Patriots open their season with a busy week. Next Tuesday they visit St. Mary's, they play host to Mandan on Thursday and head for Williston on Saturday.

Mandan, which fared well in the preseason coaches' poll, should present Century with an early measuring stick.

Metz said Mandan, which will be big across the front, will make for an interesting matchup.

"Until our posts prove some things, we're going to have to play as a team. We won't get by with any missed rotations," Metz said.

Graduation put a dent in the Patriots' inside game when post Tyler Loraas picked up her diploma. The Patriots also lost starting guard Brie Lynch to graduation.

Metz is hoping Hannah Larson, a 6-foot junior, can bolster Century's inside game.

"We're going to rely on Hannah Larson a lot more heavily along with A.J. and (5-9 senior) Kelsey Glatt inside," Metz said.

Larson, who averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 points off the bench last season, contributed heavily to the Patriots' state runner-up volleyball team this fall. Ditto with Glatt and Jacobs.

Glatt averaged 4.2 points and 2.7 points as a basketball reserve last winter.

Other veterans who played more than 150 minutes as reserves include 5-7 senior Tessa Delzer and 5-6 senior Kelsey Schatz.

That gives Metz seven seniors around which to build. "It's not often you have a group of seniors like we have this year, and they're all going to have to contribute for us to be successful," he said. "... We're going to have pretty high expectations of our seniors."

Metz said that several of his varsity players have enjoyed success in multiple sports. That, in turn, is a plus for him.

"A lot of these girls are three-sport athletes ... and just keeping that competitive edge is important whether it's volleyball, cross country, track, golf, soccer or whatever it is," Metz said. "Being expected to compete at a high level like our girls have done is a huge benefit for all our programs."

Metz said he expects an athletic team that can get up and down the floor.

"When we're playing well, we'll be able to run the floor and keep our turnovers down. ... Defensively we want to put a lot of pressure on the other team in full-court and definitely half-court defense. We want to try and create some easy offense from our defense," Metz said.

Metz, who is entering his fifth season at Century, expects to have good depth from the outset.

"I think right now it will be OK to go with eight or nine, for sure, depending on how Ann (Govig) is going to be," he said.

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