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Mandan's Elijah Klein (32) puts in the short jump shot past Jake Kerzman of Bismarck in the first half of Tuesday night's West Region game in Mandan.

In basketball coaches' Valhalla, teams always play two superb halves.

 In the real world, though, one strong half can sometimes be enough.

 Such was the case Tuesday night at the Mandan High School gym. The host Braves came out of the blocks fast and secured a 64-53 West Region win over the Bismarck Demons.

 In the first half, the Braves shot 42 percent to Bismarck's 28 percent, controlled the boards 22-16 and came out on the plus side of a 12-9 turnover count. That all added up to a 35-23 lead.

  The second half belonged in the "meh" category as the two teams played to what amounted to a near-standoff. Although the Demons outscored the Braves 30-29 over the final 18 minutes, they could get no closer than 10 points.

 Matt Trolliey closed the deficit to 42-32 four minutes after intermission, but that proved to be Bismarck's high-water mark. 

 Mandan answered with a 7-2 surge for a 49-34 lead and remained in command the rest of the way.

 For the game, Mandan shot 46 percent to Bismarck's 36 percent. The Braves controlled the boards by a commanding 40-23 margin. The Braves' performance was marred by 23 turnovers.

 Although 6-foot-7 junior Elijah Klein is the Braves' poster boy, Mandan displayed terrific balance. Klein had a 15-point night, which was matched by guards Trey Wiest and Keshawn Laframboise.

 Guards Joe Jahner and Matt Trolliey were Bismarck's scoring leaders with 20 and 12 points, respectively, but needed a lot of shots to get there. Jahner connected on 6 of 19 attempts and Trolliey was 5-for-17.

 Klein yanked down a dozen rebounds and Evan Arenz collected seven assists to help Mandan to a successful debut in West Region play. 

 Both BHS and Mandan both stand 1-1 overall. Mandan lost its opener to West Fargo Sheyenne and Bismarck rolled over Fargo North.

 Klein said the Braves needed Tuesday's win to get the ship righted after the loss in West Fargo.

 "This was a very big win. We practiced really hard yesterday after that loss (to Sheyenne)," Klein said. 

 "It's always a good rivalry (with Bismarck), and it feels good to win" he added.

 Klein said the halftime talk in the Mandan locker room was about maintaining intensity.

 "Be ready to go, keep the gas pedal down and don't let (Bismarck) get back in the game," was what he recalled.

  The second half wasn't as pretty as the first, but the Braves got the job done.

 "We gave up a few too many points (in the second half), but anything under 60 is a good score," he observed. 

 Both teams saddle up again on Friday. Bismarck plays host to Jamestown in the second half of a 6 p.m. girls-boys doubleheader. The drill is reversed at Century the same night. Mandan's boys lead off a 6 p.m. doubleheader.

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Sports Reporter