For St. Mary’s seniors Tonya Dvorak, Sydney Smith, Kaitlyn Wanner, Megan Heick and Elizabeth Preszler, Saturday was three years in the making.
The Saints allowed just 12 made baskets, while forcing 21 turnovers, in a 61-45 win over Jamestown in a state-qualifying game of the West Region tournament at the Bismarck Events Center.
“It’s amazing. It’s what we wanted since we were freshmen, to change the culture at St. Mary’s and get back to state,” said Dvorak, one of three Saints in double figures with 15 points. “It took us three years to do it, but it feels great do it in our senior year.”
Legacy also punched its ticket for state, rolling past Bismarck 55-33.
St. Mary’s is not just happy to be headed for the Fargodome on March 8-10. The Saints, ranked No 2 in the state, own a 19-5 record and are the only team to beat No. 1-ranked Century this season.
“It’s going to take everything. We’re all going to have to be at our best,” said Dvorak, a University of Mary recruit. “There are a ton of good teams out there, but we’re excited to be in the mix.”
The Saints’ trademark sticky defense gives them a chance against anybody.
Close early against Jamestown, St. Mary’s (19-4) reeled off 13 straight points for a 19-4 lead midway through the first half. The Blue Jays got the deficit under 10 just once the rest of the game (47-39) deep in the second half.
“We were really focused this year on playing man-to-man. We’ve played a lot of zone in the past,” Dvorak said. “We committed a lot of fouls today and yesterday. That’s something we need to work on, to be a little more disciplined.”
Dvorak added 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots to go with her 15 points. Taylor Gerving led the Saints in points (18) and steals (4). Marriann Senftner chipped in with 11 points and Wanner pulled down nine rebounds.
Courtney Peterson led Jamestown with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Saints (19-5) face Grand Forks Red River (18-6) on Thursday, March 8 at the Fargodome in the second quarterfinal of the day set for 3 p.m.
“We were able to put it all together this year and get to state,” Dvorak said. “We feel good about that.”
Legacy 55, Bismarck 33
Whitney Thomas led Legacy back to state.
The defending state champions, but with virtually an entirely new roster, pulled away from Bismarck to cap a season of steady improvement.
“We had a completely different team this year. We knew coming into the season we were going to have to work hard in practice and always focus on getting better,” Thomas said. “As the season went on we seemed to gel together. We had some ups and downs, but it’s been fun and rewarding to have a season like this and get back to state.”
The Sabers’ late season surge started on the defensive end, capped by putting the Demons in the vice grip on Saturday. Bismarck went 12-for-42 and committed 22 turnovers.
“We really worked on our defense,” said Thomas, who led the Sabers with 15 points and four assists. “At the beginning of the season we didn’t have the greatest communication, but it was a learning experience and we improved a lot. At the end of the year, our defense really helped us win games.”
Alexis Dressler was a rebound short of a double-double for the Sabers with 10 points and nine rebounds. She also had four steals.
Thomas, the lone senior on the Sabers’ roster, enjoyed being a valuable veteran presence.
“I tried to be a good leader for the other girls,” Thomas said. “We’ve come a long way this season. It’s been fun to see things come together for us.”
Olivia Dickerson led the Demons with seven points. Hannah Golus grabbed seven rebounds.
Legacy faces East Region champion Fargo Davies (21-3) in the third quarterfinal game on Thursday at the Fargodome.