For the second straight night, it didn’t come easily for the Jamestown Blue Jays.
But once again, the state’s top-ranked team made all the plays down the stretch and picked up another victory.
Jamestown won the West Region tournament title for the first time, fending off a challenge from Mandan 71-63 in the championship game on Saturday night at the Bismarck Event Center.
“Tournament games are always hard games to play,” Jamestown coach Jacoby Lloyd said. “Every single team is prepared, every single team has a game plan going into it. Players have got to make plays.”
The Blue Jays used a 15-4 run early in the second half to build an eight-point lead and held off repeated pushes by the Braves to improve to 24-0 heading into next week’s state Class A tournament.
“Mandan is unbelievably competitive, very skilled, they’re a hard team to play against. They’re well-coached and they play very, very hard,” Lloyd said.
The teams played to a near draw over the first 18 minutes.
The Braves opened up an early 9-4 lead. Jamestown got a spark from 6-foot-7 senior post Mason Walters – who stepped out behind the 3-point line and drilled a pair of 3-pointers – in a 14-4 run that flipped a three-point Mandan lead into a seven-point Blue Jay advantage at 25-18.
Mandan responded, using a 20-9 burst to grab a four-point lead late in the half after a pair of free throws by Evan Arenz made it 38-34 Braves with 24 seconds before intermission.
But Walters – who led all scorers with 17 points in the first half – drilled his third 3-pointer of the half just 2 seconds before the break to pull Jamestown within one going into the locker room.
“It was two really good teams going back and forth at each other,” Lloyd said.
Walters’ long-range shooting by a big spark.
“I know he’s one of our best shooters on our team,” Lloyd said. “He’s had some slumps but he’s so good with his back to the basket that it’s hard to take him away from there. But he stepped out there and it was awesome.”
Walters led the way for the Blue Jays, posting a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Getting him the ball was a big key in the second half, Lloyd said.
“I think we focused on getting Mason the ball,” he said. “I think we lost that for a little while and he was obviously locked in and ready to play. He wanted this one very badly.”
Jared Kallenbach hit 6 of 9 shots from the field and 5 of 7 from the line to finish with 18 points for Jamestown, and Boden Skunberg contributed 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
In their second trip to the West Region title game – they lost to Century last year in their initial finals appearance – the Blue Jays picked up their first title and kept the momentum going into next week’s state tournament on the same Event Center court. But that’s not the main focus.
“We’ve got a special group of kids that they wanted this one but it’s not their end-all goal,” Lloyd said. “They’re going to take everything and focus on next week. We’re going to get ready for our first-round opponent at state. We know that this is a nice feather in our cap but we’re going to move forward. We’ve got bigger goals.”
Elijah Klein led the Braves (16-8) with 16 points. Jaxton Wiest and Trey Wiest each added 15.
Legacy 72, Minot 68
Nick Kupfer and Paxton Miller combined for seven 3-pointers and 38 points, powering the No. 6-seeded Sabers to a berth in the state Class A tournament.
Kupfer, a sophomore guard, scored a game-high 26 points to lead the way in a 72-68 victory over No. 5-seeded Minot. He hit 7 of 17 shots from the field – including 3 of 6 from 3-point range – and converted on 9 of 10 free throw attempts.
Miller, a senior forward, added 12 points on four 3-pointers.
Troy Hilz and Andrew Messmer each hit from beyond the arc as the Sabers hit 9 of 21 3-pointers – for 42.9 percent.
Legacy (14-11) shot 47 percent (24 for 51) from the field while holding Minot to 37.3 percent (19 for 51).
Tucker Olson led the Magicians (15-9) with 21 points. Easton Larson added 18 and Jaxon Gunville 16.
Century 52, Bismarck 45
Bismarck and Century split a pair of close decisions during the regular season.
The third time around, with a berth in the state tournament on the line, the Patriots prevailed in another battle.
Treyton Mattern and Cade Feeney combined for 30 points as Century, the No. 4 seed entering the tournament, edged the No. 2-seeded Demons 52-45.
Century shot 48 percent from the field (12 for 25) in building an eight-point halftime lead at 32-24.
The Patriots’ defense made things tough on the Demons, who shot 29.5 percent (18 for 61) for the game and 11 percent (2-for-18) from 3-point range.
Mattern finished with 19 points, Feeney 11 and Stevie Kraljic had six points and 10 rebounds for Century (16-8).
Canyon Stonecipher led BHS (17-7) with 12 points and 12 rebounds.