Friday night was senior night at Mandan High School but the night belonged to a junior.
Elijah Klein, a 6-foot-7 junior post, flirted with a triple-double while leading the Braves to an 84-63 rout of Century — a win that gave the Braves sole possession of second place in the West Region with one game left.
Both teams are 14-5 in the region and 14-6 overall, but be Braves’ 21-point win trumps Century’s 73-70 overtime win the first time the teams met this season. Bismarck, also 13-5 in the West heading into the night, played at Turtle Mountain on Friday night.
Klein scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half to go with 10 rebounds and six blocked shots. He also made 6 of 8 free throws.
“It’s one of his top (games),” Mandan coach Brandon Schafer said. “When you play against a team at the level of Century, they’re probably one of the best defensive teams in the state, and for us to execute shows a lot.”
The Braves pulled away from a 34-34 halftime tie to post the kind of win Schafer never expected. “I can’t say why. I wish I could,” Schafer said. “As a group they just wanted to go out and make a memory on senior night. Everyone contributed.”
Century senior guard Treyton Mattern and the Patriots threatened to turn the game into a runaway early in the first half. With the Braves mired in a 2-for-14 shooting drought, Century raced out to a 14-4 lead with 12:37 left in the first half.
Mattern scored 10 points of his game-high 27 points over five straight possessions to cap Century’s 7-for-10 start. It was Mattern’s sixth straight 20-point game.
But the Braves regrouped behind Jaxton Wiest, who scored eight of his 15 points in the last nine minutes of the first half, and Klein, who blocked four shots in the first half.
The Patriots stretched the lead to 28-20 on Blake Stuart’s three-point play with 3:43 left, but the Braves answered again. Trey Wiest — who went 10-for-11 from the line — scored six quick points and Keshawn Laframboise’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left tied the game 28-28. Mandan answered each Century basket own the stretch and Trey Wiest’s two free throws with 4.2 seconds left sent the teams into halftime tied 34-34.
Mandan closed the first half by making 7 of 9 shots from the field and 7 of 8 free throws. And the Braves were just getting started.
Klein — all the Braves really — started going to the basket with every touch on the offensive end. They also started going to the line where they finished 20-for-23 to Century’s 5-for-7. Klein had two of the Braves’ three three-point plays and missed the free throw of another.
“We wanted to get the ball moving from side to side to get some mismatches for him and he did a great job of attacking the rim. He played possessed,” Schafer said.
Klein deflected the credit.
“We figured we could play with those guys, we just wanted to avoid a letdown in the second half,” Klein said. “My team was with me, and even if I didn’t shoot the ball, we have other greay shooters on the tem.”
The Braves made 30 of 61 shots from the field for 49.2 percent. Century finished 27-for-59 from the floor but made on four of 14 3-point shots.
The lead grew to double figures on Klein’s basket and free throw that made it 49-38 with 12:42 to play. And it kept growing.
Evan Arenz’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left made it 67-50. Jaxton Wiest’s breakaway layup with 2:30 left made it a 20-point game.
Arenz and Keyshwn Lafromboise finished with 10 points apiece for Mandan, who can clinch the second seed with a win over unbeaten and top-ranked Jamestown on Tuesday.
After Friday, Schafer isn’t counting the Braves out.
“We’re going to go there and give it everything we have. I like where we’re at,” Schafer said. “If we play our game we have as good a chance as anybody to go there and win.”