St. Mary’s boys basketball coach Brent DeKok denied any magic Thursday night after the Saints pulled a memorable first-round upset in the West Region tournament for the second straight year.
“I don’t know if there’s any magic. I’ve got good kids with no quit in them,” he said after the seventh-seeded Saints upended No. 2 Bismarck 67-65 in the quarterfinal round of the regional event at the Event Center.
It was the same time and the same place as last year’s astounding victory over Dickinson in the regional quarterfinals.
“Same exact spot, 6:30, two against seven,” DeKok recalled.
Bismarck and St. Mary’s battled in true tournament style, with every possession important and every basket vital.
The Demons broke away to a 14-2 lead, but recovered quickly enough to knot the game at 20 a layup by Ben Schmidt.
From that point on it was a dogfight with eight ties and six lead changes. The biggest lead over the final 30 minutes was six points by each team – 28-22 by Bismarck and 51-45 by St. Mary’s.
There were two lead changes and two ties packed into the last five minutes.
Bismarck surged ahead 58-55 on a three-point play by 6-foot-3 junior Canyon Stonecipher. St. Mary’s regained the advantage at 61-60 on a drive to the hole by senior Luke Kambeitz.
A three-point play by Stonecipher gave Bismarck a 63-61 lead, and a basket by John Nordberg evened things at 63 with 1:16 on the clock.
Senior guard Cole Gendreau put St. Mary’s in the lead to stay with 44 seconds to play, going to the hole to make it 65-63.
Kambeitz fattened the Saints’ lead to 67-63 with a pair of free throws with :19 remaining.
Bismarck’s Tanner David put the final two points of the game on the scoreboard with a basket with :05 to go.
Going to hole paid big dividends for the Saints all night.
“This is the kind of basketball we’ve wanted to play the whole year,” said Kambeitz, who scored a game-high 19 points. “Today we just did it very well.”
DeKok echoed his player’s assessment.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do, but we shared the ball a lot better tonight,” the coach said. “We had a lot more (offensive) movement and a lot more unselfish play.”
With Thursday’s victory, St. Mary’s moved into tonight’s 7:15 semifinal with third-seeded Mandan. A state tournament berth awaits the winner of that game.
“We know we’re not done yet,” Kambeitz said. “We have to go and get one more win to get to state.”
Century takes on Minot in the other semifinal at 5:30.
Kambeitz said having several veterans of last year’s tournament in the Saints lineup becomes a huge asset at tournament time.
“The WDA is a senior-led league. You need senior leadership to win, especially in this tournament,” he said. “We have four or five seniors who are big-time leaders and they know what it takes to win these types of games.”
Bismarck now faces a pair of must-win games in its quest for a state tournament berth. The Demons play Mandan at 2:45 today in a loser-out game.
Century 70, Dickinson 47
Tournament time is a different kind of animal, and Century answered the bell, opening the West Region tournament with decisive victory over eight-seeded Dickinson.
“Tournaments are special, especially the 3 o’clock game when you have to create your own intensity,” said CHS junior guare Treyton Mattern. “The coaches say you have to win the first four minutes and the last four minutes of each half and maintain intensity throughout the game.”
Mattern said Dickinson’s 20 turnovers was an important marker in the game.
“Defensively we played pretty well, and on offense we had to be patient and get good looks,” he noted.
Coach Darin Mattern praised the Patriots’ defensive play.
“We wanted to make every possession as difficult as possible for Dickinson and I thought we were able to do that, especially in the first half,” he said. “And I was very happy with our offensive balance.”
Eleven players scored for the Patriots, three in double figures. Sophomore guard Cade Feeney led the way with 13 points, Mattern added 12 and six-foot-6 senior post Kade Amundson tallied 10. Kade Lynch, a 6-1 senior forward, pulled down eight rebounds as Century dominated the boards 35-26.
Century moves into today’s 5:30 semifinal, where it will take on Minot for a state tournament berth. The Patriots beat Minot twice in the regular season, by 29 and 10 points.
Dickinson meets Legacy today in a 1 p.m. loser-out contest. Dickinson fell to Legacy by 32 and nine points in regular season play.
Minot 68, Legacy 51
It didn’t take Minot long to take control of the game, but it took quite awhile to put the Sabers away.
The Magicians closed with a 14-6 burst in the final four minutes to take a 32-20 halftime lead. They got out of the chute quickly in the second half to open a 45-22 lead on Alex Schimke’s driving three-point play with 13:07 remaining.
Minot was never in danger of losing the lead beyond that point, but Legacy wouldn’t simply go away. The Sabers cut the deficit to 52-39 and 58-45 in the final five minutes before Minot put the game away.
Senior guard Chandler Albertson said it’s hard to put a lot of points on the scoreboard against Legacy.
“Legacy is a pretty good defensive team. They took away the 3-point shot pretty good and made us go to the hole more,” Albertson observed. “Defense is what makes them tough.”
Albertson said the score against Legacy was typical of tournament basketball.
“It’s slow, grind-it-out-every-possession basketball,” he said.
Sophomore 6-4 post Devin Mikell came up big for Minot with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Albertson added 15 points. Legacy, hampered by 35 percent shooting, had no double-figure scorers. Peyton Wetzel led the way with nine counters.
Minot advances to today’s 5:30 semifinal against Century with a state tournament berth on the line. Legacy plays a 1 p.m. today, facing Dickinson in a loser-out game.
Jamestown 70, Mandan 67
Jamestown completed an evening of the Super-Blue, pulling off an upset of third-seeded Mandan on the heels of St. Mary’s surprise win over Bismarck.
The winning Blue Jays got away fast, but the game came down to a 3-pointer by 6-4 sophomore forward Boden Skunberg with 13 seconds to play.
Skunberg connected to break a 67-67 tie. Mandan called a time out with :08 on the clock. Junior guard Trey Wiest took the Braves’ last shot from the left corner, but the attempt bounced off the side of the backboard, giving the Blue Jays a berth in tonight’s 7:15 semifinal against St. Mary’s. Jamestown, now 11-11, has a pair of wins over the Saints, a nine-pointer and a three-pointer.
Jamestown coach Jacoby Lloyd said he had no doubts about putting the game’s outcome in the hands of a sophomore.
“He was the guy, absolutely, 100 percent. He’s repped that shot so many times in the gym. He’s a great athlete, a great player,” Lloyd said.
Skunberg said that 3-pointer from the top of the key is a shot set deeply in his muscle memory.
“We rep those out every day,” he said. “We executed it perfectly, just as the coach wanted it. We had good ball movement at the end.”
Jamestown came out with fangs bared, taking leads of 17-8 and 30-15 before Mandan got its bearings.
The Braves bounced back to cut the deficit to 37-32 at halftime, but the Blue Jays were not to be denied.
Jamestown opened 16-point leads of 53-37 and 55-39 in the early stages of the second half before Mandan began to gain ground.
A 17-5 run enabled the Braves to pull even at 62 on a three-point play by 6-4 senior post Trae Steckler with 3:38 remaining. Mandan pulled even at 65 on a chip shot by Steckler and again at 67 on a lob to Steckler with 43 seconds on the clock. That set the stage for Skunberg’s game-winner.
“We knew we had a chance if we came out strong,” Skunberg said. “Mandan is a good team. We knew they’d try to come back, and they did.”
Mandan defeated Jamestown twice in regular-season play, 73-58 at Mandan and 80-76 in Jamestown.
Lloyd said there was some value in playing Mandan tough at home.
“That helped us fine-tune some things, but Mandan made some adjustments, too,” he said.
Third-seeded Mandan, which dipped to 18-4, takes on second-seeded Bismarck at 2:45 in a loser-out game. Bismarck and Mandan have split two games this season.