Shooting free throws isn't the prettiest way to win basketball games, but it worked for the St. Mary's girls on Friday night.

 There were free throws aplenty in St. Mary’s 61-51 victory at Bismarck High School, 29 of them to be exact. Twenty of those foul shots were credited to the Saints, courtesy of 24 BHS fouls.

 Bismarck's third-ranked boys overpowered St. Mary's 89-55 in the evening's finale.

 St. Mary’s, ranked fourth in the state at game time, needed a while to get going. Bismarck led most of the first 10 minutes. But once St. Mary’s took the lead – 18-17 on a 3-pointer by Tonya Dvorak –  it retained it until the final buzzer.

 Dvorak’s trey capped a 10-2 Saints run that wiped out a 15-8 Bismarck advantage.

 Although St. Mary’s played with the lead the final 26 minutes with the lead, Bismarck stubbornly refused to go away.

 Twice St. Mary’s opened 11-point leads in the middle of the second half. A layup by Kaitlyn Wanner made it  47-36 and a rebound basket by Elizabeth Preszler gave the Saints a 49-38 lead with 6:15 to play.

 Then Bismarck sprang to life, running on seven uninterrupted points, the final five by Cadee Ryckman, to trim the deficit to 49-45 with 4:30 to play.

 At that point, however, the Bismarck offense began to sputter. BHS scored on just three of its final nine possessions, enabling St. Mary’s to pull away.

 “When you play a team as good as St. Mary’s and as big as they are you’ve got to sustain something,” BHS coach Bill Shetler said. “And we never were able to do that, due to our turnovers.”

 Marriann Senftner got the Saints’ winning push started, scoring from the perimeter and adding two points on a steal to put St. Mary’s in charge 53-45 with 3:19 remaining.

 Bismarck was stymied by its 39 percent shooting, 18 turnovers and a 38-25 deficit on the boards.

 Shetler focused on he floor mistakes, many of which were unforced.

 “I told the girls that our fight and effort were as good as could be, and we were locked in pretty well on the defensive end. But we never gave ourselves a chance because of the turnovers,” Shetler said. “We had our chances. As poorly as we handled the ball, we had our chances.”

 Nobody really lit things up in the game, although five players reached double figures.

 Dvorak, Wanner and Senftner led the Saints with 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Ryckman tallied 17 points and grabbed six rebounds for Bismarck, and MaKensie Maher followed up with 13 points.

  Wanner said man-to-man defense had a big hand in Friday’s victory.

 “Defense is definitely an important part of the game. We try to play good defense and hope the offense follows,” she said. “They’re a good team, so we tried to put (ball) pressure on them and hope they made mistakes.”

  St. Mary’s handled Bismarck 60-46 in December, but Wanner said Friday’s rematch was more of a struggle.

 “Teams sort of know what you’re doing (the second time through the league). It’s definitely different and a lot harder,” she said.

 St. Mary’s, now 13-2 in the West Region and 15-3 overall, returns to action on Tuesday at Minot.

 Bismarck, 8-8 and 10-9, gets a seven-day break before playing host to Turtle Mountain on Feb. 17.

<h3>Bismarck 89, St. Mary's 55

 The final score was Bismarck's largest lead of the evening, although the Demons led by 20 or more a good chunk of the second half.

 BHS didn't get out of the chute well, trailing 15-10 before getting the ball rolling. The Demons led 48-35 at halftime and were in charge for the final 18 minutes.

 The Demons finished with five double-figure scorers, and that's without starting guard Joe Jahner, who missed the game with an injury.

  Tanner Davis led the Bismarck parade with an 18-point effort that included four 3-pointers. Canyon Stonecipher added 12, Russell Swagger tallied 11, and Kaide Gimbel and Matt Trolliey came in with 10 each.

 All told, the Demons sank 36 field goals, 11 3-pointers among them.

 St. Mary's got 17 points from Cole Gendreau and 13 from John Nordberg. Gendreau connected on three of the Saints' five 3-pointers.

 With the victory, BHS righted the ship after back-to-back losses to Mandan and Minot. Bismarck improved to 14-5 with the win and achieved a regular-season sweep. BHS won 74-63 at St. Mary's in December.

 St. Mary's, now 5-13, is 3-3 in its last six games. The Saints play again Tuesday at Minot. 

 Bismarck is off until Feb. 17 when Turtle Mountain visits the Karlgaard gym.

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Sports Reporter