With under two minutes to play it appeared that the Mandan Braves were well on their way to posting an impressive season-opening victory over the Century Patriots.
But in a short period of time the Patriots showed just how quickly things can change in a Class A West Region boys basketball game.
The Braves carried a 55-42 lead into the final two minutes, but the Patriots trimmed the deficit to two points and later had a chance to even the score before Mandan secured a 63-58 victory at Linette Olson Gymnasium Saturday night. Later, Century gained a split in the doubleheader with a come-from-behind 90-77 win in the girls game.
Treyton Mattern’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining pulled the Patriots within two, 58-56. After the Braves’ Elijah Klein went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line four seconds later, Century moved the ball around before Mattern put up a well-defended 3-point attempt from the right wing that bounced off the rim and into the hands of Mandan’s Camren Steckler. Steckler was fouled immediatley with 14.9 seconds remaining and went on to sink two free throws.
Century’s Kade Lynch netted a pair of charity tosses with 9.9 seconds left, but the Braves’ Jaxton Wiest answered a second later with two free throws to all but wrap it up.
Mandan coach Brandon Schafer acknowledged that even with a late double-digit lead, the West Region is no place to rest easy.
“Nobody quits in this region, especially Century,” he said. “Century is one of the best teams in the state and you know they’re going to battle until the end. They made a run in the last couple of minutes and almost caught us, but we found a way.
“This was a huge, huge win,” Schafer continued. “We have high expectations this year and beating Century in their building is quite a confidence-booster. We know we still have some work to do, though. We have to focus on getting better one day at a time.”
Trae Steckler led a balanced Mandan scoring attack with 15 points. Klein, Trey Wiest and Camren Steckler added 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Mattern topped the Patriots with 22 points -- 15 on five 3-pointers. Kade Amundson contributed 13 and Josh Sipes 10.
The Braves led 25-18 at the intermission, and made it 28-18 28 seconds into the second half courtesy of Klein’s three-point play.
Century then surged ahead 29-28 behind an 11-0 run that Cade Feeney finished off with a 3-pointer with 14:31 remaining. Forty-five seconds later, however, Jaxton Wiest made two free throws to start a 7-0 Mandan run.
“You know Century is going to go on runs. It’s how you respond that’s important,” Schafer said. “Century had a nice run to pull ahead, but we responded with a run of our own to take back the momentum.”
Later, Trey Wiest drained back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 10-2 Mandan run that made it 46-35 with 6:20 left. After two Mattern free throws, a Trae Steckler basket and a Keshawn Laframboise 3-pointer extended Mandan’s lead to 14 points, 51-37, with 4:45 remaining.
Despite allowing 16 points in the final two minutes, Mandan’s defensive effort drew praise from Schafer.
“From day one we’ve emphasized defense. You’re going to win games in this region on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “This was going to be a slugfest and I thought the defensive energy was the best I’ve seen from this particular group. I think we showed that we can be one of the better defensive teams in the region.”
Century 90, Mandan 77
After watching his team allow Mandan to score 53 points in the first half, it was obvious what Century coach Ron Metz talked about during the intermission.
"That's about all we talked about," Metz said after Century rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit. "I told the girls that in all of my years of coaching I never had a team allow 53 points in one half. We scored 42 and usually when we do that, we're up by double digits. This time we were down by double digits, but I'm really happy with the way the girls responded to the challenge of playing better defense. We went from giving up 53 points in the first half to 24 in the second."
While Century's defense turned up the heat in the final 18 minutes, its offense continued to light up the scoreboard.
The Patriots chipped away at the deficit before pulling even at 71-71 on a Mariya Kinnebrew basket with 9:06 remaining. After a Mandan turnover, Megan Anderson drained a 3-pointer to give Century a 74-71 lead.
A Lizi Leingang 3-pointer with 7:52 left evened the score at 74-74, but Century answered with a decisive 10-0 run, capped off by a Kinnebrew basket with 4:57 remaining. During the run, the Patriots converted three straight Mandan turnovers into six points.
The Braves got within seven, 84-77, with 3:10 left, but didn't score again.
Rebounding was another key to Century's second-half dominance.
"We held them to one shot on most of their possessions, and our work on the offensive boards kept a lot of our possessions alive," Metz said. "Offense, defense and rebounding ... it was a very solid half of basketball for us."
Lauren Ware, Century's 6-foot-4 post player, and Lilly Keplin each tossed in 20 points to lead the Patriots. Kinnebrew and Anderson added 16 and 12 points, respectively.
Kennedy Harris netted 20 points for the Braves, who finished off the first half on an 8-0 run. Harris had five of Mandan's 14 3-pointers.
Lakyn Darras contributed 17 points, Megan Zander 14, and Courtney Olson 13.