Nothing came easily early on for the Legacy Sabers on Saturday.
St. Mary’s charged out to a big early lead, threatening to hand the state’s No. 2-ranked team its first loss of the season, while charging out to an early nine-point lead.
But the Sabers weren’t fazed. Legacy found its footing and went on to pick up a 63-49 West Region victory over the Saints at the Bismarck Event Center.
“St. Mary’s threw the first punch to start the game and once we settled in and kind of got back to the tempo we want to play against a team of that size, it really benefitted us,” Legacy coach Jim Petrik said.
The Saints opened the game on a 7-2 run and built a nine-point lead twice at 13-4 and 16-7.
“We knew St. Mary’s was a good team and we knew it would be a long, hard-fought game and usually it comes down to the second half and we were able to pull that one out,” said Legacy senior Alexis Dressler, who finished with 17 points. “We weren’t too worried. We knew it was a long game.”
“We had some good shots early that just weren’t falling,” Petrik said. “Once we can score, we can get our pressure on them a little bit. Dressler and our other posts did a great job of rebounding and then looking to outlet right away and putting a lot of pressure on their defense.
“Credit that St. Mary’s team -- that’s one of the hardest-working teams we’ve played.”
Once the Sabers’ shots started falling, things started to click. A 17-3 run turned a 16-7 deficit into a 24-19 lead with 4:38 remaining in the first half.
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Defensively, Legacy made things tough on the Saints after the fast start. After Abbi Kopp’s three-point play with 12:09 to go in the half, St. Mary’s was held without a field goal for 11 minutes -- managing only six free throws until Elizabeth Peyerl hit a 3-pointer with 1:01 to go before intermission.
During that span, Legacy turned a nine-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
“We tell our kids we’re going to win or lose on the defensive end and to open the game we did not bring it,” Petrik said. “But then we started to realize it was going to be a physical game and we had to be more physical. They forced a lot of tough matchups in the post and in the second half they got a lot of offensive rebounds but our kids battled and we came out with the win.”
Dressler hit a jumper and a 3-pointer during a 15-4 Sabers run to start the second half, taking a 48-31 lead with 11:19 to go.
“We just started sharing the ball,” Dressler said. “We were taking good looks. We knew they were going to start to fall. It’s just a little frustrating when they’re not, but once they started to go, we got back in the swing of things.”
The Sabers pushed the lead to 18 points with eight minutes to go before the Saints used an 8-0 run to pull within 10. Dressler hit a 3-pointer -- her fifth of the game -- with 3:33 left, sparking a 7-0 burst that sealed the win.
Four players hit double figures for Legacy (12-0, 11-0 West Region) -- Dressler with 17, Ashton Sagaser and Jaiden Baker with 11 apiece and Arianna Berryhill with 10 as the Sabers remained unbeaten going into a matchup with No. 5-ranked Mandan on Tuesday.
“The record doesn’t mean anything,” Dressler said. “We’ll celebrate this one tonight but then we’re over it in the morning and we’ve got to focus on the next one.”
Peyerl led the Saints (7-6, 7-5 West Region) with 19. Kopp and Maria Mann each finished with nine.
Legacy travels to Mandan on Tuesday, while St. Mary’s visits Williston on Friday.