A swarming, ball-hawking defense helped the Legacy Sabers make history.
For the third straight night, the Sabers found themselves in a battle until the final minute. Once again, Legacy came out with a big win.
Making their first appearance in a state championship game, the Sabers knocked off three-time defending state champion Fargo Shanley 52-50 on Saturday night at the Bismarck Event Center.
Mercedes Baumgartner hit a pair of free throws with 1:27 remaining, giving Legacy the lead for good. Brita Feland hit a putback with 49 seconds left and Kyla Schock sank a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left to make it a five-point Saber advantage.
Julia Vetter hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds, and Legacy claimed a state title – becoming just the seventh school to win a state title in their first opportunity, and the first since West Fargo in 1993.
“We knew coming in that Shanley is a really good team and we knew that was how we were going to have to win the game tonight, was with defense,” Feland said.
Legacy opened the game on a 7-0 run, but both teams struggled offensively for the first 18 minutes. The Sabers went into the locker room at halftime with a 20-19 lead.
“They’re so long, I was worried about scoring,” Legacy coach Jim Petrik said. “We only had 20 at half – if you’d have told me we’d have 20 at half and we’re still ahead, I wouldn’t have believed it, but luckily our defensive plan worked to a ‘T.’
“We took away their post touches. They hit some 3s in the first half, in the second half their posts got some looks. They’re great players. Give Shanley credit – the run they had, the kids they have are very talented. We knew it was going to be a dogfight and luckily our kids stuck it out at the end.”
Legacy, ranked No. 5 in the final state poll, finished the season with four straight wins after a West Region tournament semifinal setback to Mandan. The final one was the biggest test, squaring off with a Shanley team that was ranked No. 2 in the state, coming off a semifinal win over top-ranked Century and looking to become just the second team to win four straight state championships.
While the Sabers were in uncharted waters, the Deacons had won 12 straight state tournament games – a run dating back to a third-place win in 2013, and a run that started before Legacy High School was built.
At a size disadvantage, Legacy crowded the lane to try to minimize Shanley’s height.
“Shutting down the lane and getting rebounds, that was going to be the biggest thing tonight,” said Feland, who posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“We decided to pack it in the paint,” Petrik said. “We were going to pick them up full court and pressure them, try to create turnovers. Once they got it across the line, we’re going to pack it in and take away their posts. They have great post players, so we did that and luckily their shots didn’t fall in the second half.
“Brita and all of our posts did a great job defensively. They had to be physical tonight. We were outsized.”
“We struggled doing what we wanted to,” Shanley coach Bruce Jacobson said. “They scouted, did the things they needed to beat us.”
After back-to-back baskets by Emily Dietz and Caira Berg helped Shanley tie the game at 28-28 with 11:34 remaining, Legacy went on a three-minute, 13-0 burst that opened up a 41-28 lead with 8:24 remaining.
But the defending champs countered with a 13-1 run, capped by five straight points by Reily Payne, the last coming on a jumper with 1:31 remaining that gave the Deacons a 47-46 lead.
But the Sabers scored the game’s final six points to ice the win
Legacy shot 36 percent from the field (20-56) – and connected on 13 of 29 (45 percent) in the second half. Shanley, meanwhile, shot 30 percent (18 for 60) for the game, 10 for-29 (34.5 percent) in the second half. The Sabers’ relentless defense also forced 31 Shanley turnovers.
“They played a great game,” Jacobson said. “We just missed some shots, couldn’t get them to fall. … Give credit to Legacy – they had a wonderful game, a wonderful year.”
Feland led the way with 17 points, while Sydney Murphy and Whitney Thomas added nine apiece and Kyla Schock contributed eight for the balanced Sabers, who finished 20-7.
“All the credit goes to these kids,” Petrik said. “Four years ago, they decided they were going to have a basketball team at Legacy. They stuck with it – we have eight seniors that stuck it out all the way through, and I could not be more happy for those kids.”
Payne led Shanley (21-6) with 16 points and nine rebounds. Berg added 10 points, while Dietz had six points and a game-high 22 rebounds.
Century 68, Mandan 53
Regan Dennis and Lauren Wade powered Century to a 68-53 victory over Mandan in the third-place game.
Dennis and Wade each finished with a double-double in the Patriots’ win. Dennis scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Wade finished with 16 points and a game-high 20 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Dennis, a Miss Basketball finalist, went over the 1,000-point mark in the final game of her high school career.
The Patriots shot 43 percent (14 for 32) from the field in the first half to Mandan’s 30 percent (9 for 30) in building a 35-30 halftime lead. For the game, Century shot 37 percent (26 for 67) to 27 percent (17 for 64) for the Braves.
Lilly Keplin added 11 points and eight rebounds for Century, which finished at 22-5.
Mandan (19-9) got 19 points and seven rebounds from Kennedy Harris and 11 points, seven rebounds and three assist from Mackensi Higlin. Megan Zander added nine points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Bismarck 78, Devils Lake 72
Coral Gillette and Ashley Davis powered the Bismarck Demons to a 78-72 victory over Devils Lake in the consolation championship game.
Gillette hit 8 of 15 shots from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, and converted on 5 of 7 free throw attempts to finish with 24 points to go along with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Davis connected on 9 of 12 shots from the field, including 2 of 4 on 3s, and sank 4 of 9 free throws for 24 points.
Mady Mosolf also hit double figures for the Demons (18-9) with 10.
Bismarck shot 55 percent from the field (16 for 29) over the first 18 minutes, building a 41-30 halftime lead.
Mattea Vetsch led three players in double figures for the Firebirds (12-16) with 20, along with a game-high eight rebounds. Averi Ziegler added 18 points and six rebounds and Jessica Mertens finished with 16 points and six boards.