Lauren Ware, Century's standout sophomore, has done some terrific things on the basketball court. But until Thursday night, they did not include a four-point play.

 When that unusual eventuality finally occurred, the timing couldn't have been better as far as the Patriots were concerned. 

 The 6-foot-4 post converted a basket and two free throws with 16 seconds on the clock to lift Century to a hard-fought 72-69 girls basketball victory over Mandan.

 Ware's rare play came seconds after she'd blocked a shot by Courtney Olson with Mandan clinging to a 69-66 lead.

 Century headed upcourt and got the ball to Ware low in the paint. Ware took the ball up and scored while drawing a foul from Elizabeth Leingang.

 Leingang's foul was ruled intentional, giving Ware two free throws rather than the usual one and enabling Century to retain possession. At that point Ware was 6-for-11 at the line.

 "I was nervous on the inside but tried not to show it on the outside," Ware recalled. "Those were big free throws, so I tried to keep my composure and I did it."

 When Ware was done, Century led 70-69 with the ball in its hands.

 With 15 seconds remaining, Lilly Keplin was fouled and sank two more gift shots to give the visiting Patriots a 72-69 cushion.

 Mandan got two cracks at tying the game. Kennedy Harris missed a 3-point attempt with :03 to play and Keplin was fouled on the ensuing rebound.

 Keplin missed both shots, setting up a desperation half-court shot by Harris that hit the backboard and lipped hard off the rim as time expired.

 Century coach Ron Metz said the game took "four or five years, at least" off his potential life span. However, he praised his players for playing the full 36 minutes.

 "No, they didn't (give up)," he said. That's the way they've been all year. When they've gotten themselves into trouble they've stuck together and refused to give up."

 Mandan left the door wide open for a CHS comeback by going cold down the stretch. The Braves hit just one of nine floor shots in the final nine minutes and turned the ball over four times.

 Century took advantage, winning the game with a 19-5 run. Ware accounted for 10 of those points with two field goals and six free throws.

 Ware said the Patriots never entertained the idea that the game was slipping away. 

 "We never gave into that. We've never been down double figures before. The second half we worked together as a team. I think we came out and played better in the second half," she said.

 Century trailed 40-35 at intermission after watching Mandan chew a 24-12 deficit to pieces. Century helped set up Mandan's first-half comeback with an uncharacteristic 11 turnovers. The Patriots coughed the ball up 20 times in the game.

 "We were a little loose with the ball, but give Mandan credit for all those tips and deflections they were getting," Metz observed.

 Ware, the game's leading scorer, tallied 24 points and yanked down 14 rebounds as Century dominated the boards 41-23. Keplin, a junior guard, added 20 points.

 Century shot 50 percent (26-for-52), including 6-for-18 on 3-pointers.

 Junior guard Kennedy Harris and junior forward Megan Zander led the Mandan attack with 15 and 14 points, respectively. The Braves shot 43 percent (23-for-54) and converted eight of 23 3-point attempts.

 Mandan coach Abby Thomas said the game was disappointing, but not definitive.

 "It's such a heart-breaking loss, but we realize the season is not over," she said.

 "Our kids played very, very hard," she added. "It was very difficult to stop Lauren down low, just as we knew it would be. ... We just couldn't stop her tonight."

  Top-ranked Century, now 14-0, returns to action Monday at Minot. Fifth-ranked Mandan, 9-4, plays host to Turtle Mountain tonight.

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