Defense helped propel Century itself into the semifinals and a rematch with Fargo Shanley.
The No 2 seed from the West used a 16-5 run late in the first half to build a 16-point lead and the Patriots cruised from there, defeating Wahpeton 81-53 in the quarterfinals of the state Class A girls basketball tournament on Thursday at the Event Center's Exhibit Hall.
“We knew we had to ball pressure a lot,” said Century freshman forward Lauren Ware, who finished with 22 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. “They have a lot of good players, so defense was a big key for us.”
“The key was coming out defensively,” Patriots coach Ron Metz said “Obviously, (Tyree) Irwin is very talented and we had to make sure we had a lot of coverage on her because you’re not going to be able to guard her one on one.”
Irwin, the Huskies’ Miss Basketball finalist, finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. But the Huskies (19-6) shot just 29 percent from the field for the game.
Century, meanwhile, was clicking offensively – shooting 53 percent (3 for 66) for the game and 56 percent (19 for 34) in the second half.
Lilly Keplin hit four 3-pointers and finished with 19 points for Century (21-4). Regan Dennis, also a Miss Basketball finalist, finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists and Maddie Klein added 14.
“The big thing was the things we worked on from last week to improve our offensive efficiency,” Metz said. “Those things showed up today. We only had four turnovers in the first half, 11 for them game.
“Just moving the ball and moving when you don’t have the ball, that was the key offensively. We got a lot of movement out of a lot of people. They played a number of different defenses against us and whichever one they went to, we were able to get ourselves where we needed to be to execute offensively.”
“We ran the floor very well,” Ware said. “Our bigs ran the floor well and getting the ball up really helped on offense.”
With the win the Patriots get another shot at the Deacons in the semifinals. But they weren’t going to be taking anything for granted.
“We definitely weren’t looking ahead,” Metz said. “Our focus all week was on Wahpeton. We’ve got to get to work tonight. It will be a short night, a lot of work to prepare something for Shanley tomorrow.”
Fargo Shanley 64, Bismarck 54
The beat goes on for the Fargo Shanley Deacons.
Another state tournament, another win for the three-time defending state champions.
The top seed from the East Region built a big lead, then held off a furious rally by Bismarck down the stretch.
The Deacons won their seventh straight game, taking control early with a 23-7 first-half run that staked them to a 30-14 lead.
“Our defense made our offense work today,” Deacons coach Steve Jacobson said. “It’s the way it’s been for us all year, our defense controls what we do.”
“We ran our man, which is our favorite,” said Shanley junior forward Julia Vetter, who led four Deacons in double figures with 15 points. “We just made sure they didn’t drive and shoot threes and tried to help on the kickout.”
Shanley’s defense looked ready to put the game away early in the second half, holding BHS scoreless for a stretch of 7:41, during which they used an 11-0 run to build a 44-22 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining. They held the Demons without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes.
Emily Dietz posted a double-double for Shanley (20-5) with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Caira Berg also posted a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds and Reile Payne came close with 13 points and nine rebounds.
But Bismarck wasn’t about to go down without a fight. The Demons battled back, trimming a 22-point deficit to five twice in the closing minutes.
“We hit some big shots at some big times but I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to play them again because they went on a run that scared the living daylights out of me,” Jacobson said. “They’ve got (Coral) Gillette, (Ashley) Davis and (Cara) Haussler, they’re outstanding athletes.
“I kept asking the officials to take eight minutes off the clock but they didn’t listen.”
“I think we kept our heads pretty level,” Vetter said. We had a big lead the while game but at the end, that’s what it comes down to and we pulled it out.”
Bismarck (16-9) was led by Davis with 23 points and eight rebounds and Gillette with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Deacons shot 37 percent (18 for 49) from the field while holding the Demons to 27 percent (19 for 71).
“We work very hard defensively. It’s been out bread and butter all year,” Jacobson said. “We’ve worked hard in practice every day with our man. Caira Berg tonight on Gillette … I’ll tell you what, she did one heck of a job against Gillette, because she is a Division I player and she’s smooth, and I think she got frustrated with the pressure she had on her.”
Shanley will square off with Century in today’s 1 p.m. semifinal in the main arena, a rematch of last year’s title game. The Demons will play Wahpeton today at 4 p.m. in a consolation game at the Exhibit Hall.
Mandan 84, Devils Lake 59
A strong finish propelled Mandan to the state semifinals.
The West Region’s top seed shook off some early shooting issues and pulled away over the final nine minutes for an 84-59 quarterfinal victory over Devils Lake on Thursday at the Event Center’s Exhibit Hall.
“In the second half, we just pushed more and we used our speed and our endurance to be able to wear them out and just keep going,” said Braves senior forward Mackensi Higlin, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds.
The defense helped the Braves stretch their winning streak to 12 games.
“Our pressure on the ball when we put on our press in the second half got us going,” Mandan coach Abby Thomas said. “We got some steals, got some easy buckets.
“We didn’t shoot really well tonight. Sometimes we get a little stagnant on the offensive end. We’re normally pretty good shooters so we have to rely on our defense and our pressure to get some turnovers, get some easy buckets to kind of take that pressure off and then the shots start falling.”
Leading by six (34-28) at the half, Mandan used a 10-0 run early in the second half to take a 48-36 lead.
They put the game away with a 25-7 finishing burst.
“We were just boxing out more and stopping the cutters and getting defensive stops,” Higlin said. “In the first half, we weren’t doing as well getting stops.”
The Braves connected on 19 of 33 (58 percent) of their shots from the field in the second half.
“We just relaxed a bit, Thomas said. “When we can relax a bit, we’re pretty wicked from the 3-point line. Our kids started stepping up and knocking down those big-time shots.”
Megan Zander led the Braves (19-6) with 27 points and 15 rebounds – both game highs. Kennedy Harris added 14 points, 10 assists and four steals.
Mattea Vetsch led the Firebirds (11-15) with 11 points and Alex Palmer finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Legacy 62, Fargo Davies 56 (OT)
Mercedes Baumgartner drilled a long game-tying 3-pointer from the left wing with seven seconds remaining to force overtime, and she sank three clutch free throws in the closing seconds of the extra session as the Legacy Sabers defeated Fargo Davies 56-52.
In a back and forth game that saw eight ties and nine lead changes, Legacy sent it to overtime, and scored the first three points of the extra session and held on.
“Going into overtime I didn’t even have control of the huddle. My seniors did, they said we want this more, we want this, it’s our time to shine,” Legacy coach Jim Petrick said. “I just let them play after that and let my seniors take control for me.”
“It was a lot of grind and a lot of defense,” said Baumgartner. “We just really needed to put it in and at the end we did just that.”
The Sabers, the West’s No. 3 seed, endured a roller coaster final few minutes – leading by four (48-44) with 4:25 remaining and holding a 53-50 lead after a Whitney Thomas 3 with 1:17 remaining in regulation.
Fargo Davies responded. Carly Kottsick put back her own miss, then converted a Legacy turnover into a layup for a 54-53 lead with 50 seconds left. Two free throws by Alyssa Paper gave the Eagles a 56-53 lead with 23 seconds to go before Baumgartner tied it up.
The shot felt good, but …
“It was a little off,” Baumgartner said. “But it went in. Off a little to the right but it spun in there.”
“What a testament to our girls,” Petrik said. “We’ve lost a couple of close ones recently and to have that game go from us having a good shot at winning in regulation to turning it over and they’re up by one, up by three – we never quit. We called a good set there for Whit for a 3, it wasn’t there, we got a rebound on a hustle play and sure enough Mercedes had a great 3 to tie it. If there’s one person to be shooting that 3 at the end, it’s going to be her.”
Sydney Murphy hit a runner on the first possession of overtime and Brita Feland hit one of two free throws to make it 59-56.
“We missed a lot of free throws tonight,” Petrik said. “They did a good job down the stretch there of calling timeout and kind of icing our girls but credit the overtime free throws that we made. Down the stretch we just made plays.”
And the free throws at the end may have been enough tougher than the shot at the end of regulation, according to Baumgartner.
“At that point, you’re just shaky and nervous,” she said.
Getting the early lead in the extra session was huge.
“We had a tough time defending them all game,” Petrik said. “We got lazy, we fouled them too much, so getting the first bucket of overtime kind of relaxed our girls a little bit and they realized if we get a few more stops, we’re going to win this basketball game.”
Legacy (18-7) got 17 points from Baumgartner and 12 from Thomas. Kyla Schock added nine points and 11 rebounds.
Kottsick led Davies (18-7) with 20, while Kylee Bergantine and Raegan Linster each finished with 14. Linster also grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Eagles will take on Devils Lake at 6 p.m. in a consolation semifinal.
The Sabers will square off with Mandan in the 3 p.m. semifinal contest.
“We’re not going to be too satisfied yet. Our goal was to win a few games here, not just one,” Petrik said.