FARGO -- Century was just a little better down the stretch.
As a result, the Patriots will play for another championship.
Mariya Kinnebrew scored six of her 10 points late to help Century hold off St. Mary’s 55-48 in the first of two all-West Region semifinals at the state Class A tournament in Fargo on Friday.
“We knew it’d be a very hard game. St. Mary’s is a great team,” Kinnebrew said. “We’re so excited to have the chance to play for the state championship.”
St. Mary’s, the only team to beat Century this season, trailed 50-46 late on a 3-pointer by Tonya Dvorak. But the Saints scored just two points over the final 2:55 of the game.
“It seemed like every time we got close, they’d make a timely shot. That’s kinda what jumped out to me,” said St. Mary’s coach Shannon Copas. “It was a wonderful game … two great teams going end to end.”
Points were at a premium with the two best defensive teams in the state.
“You had to earn everything both ways,” Copas said. “Our girls played so hard. The effort was tremendous. (Century) doesn’t give up many open looks and then they have (Lauren) Ware waiting inside. It’s tough.”
Kinnebrew made two free throws with 91 seconds left. She was fouled on a drive with just one second left on the shot clock. Kinnebrew was one of four Patriots in double figures with 10 points.
“Nothing came easy for either team,” said Century coach Ron Metz. “When we were able to have some composure and slow down, we were effective. Both teams do a really good job of not giving up anything easy.
“We’re very happy to be able to get through.”
Lilly Keplin led the Patriots with 14 points and 3 steals. Her second 3-pointer of the game made it 50-43 with 3:15 left in the game. Lauren Ware double-doubled with 11 points and 10 rebounds. She also blocked five shots. Katelyn Selensky added 10 points, including consecutive first half 3-pointers to shake Century out of a 5-minute scoring drought.
“Both teams wanted it really bad. When you’re playing in a game like this with so much at stake, nothing is going to be easy,” Keplin said. “We were able to get some big stops down the stretch, I think that was the difference.”
The Saints came up empty on four of their last five possessions.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a game where we were going to score a lot of points,” Keplin said. “We knew we’d have to play hard for 36 minutes and really focus on our defense. It was tough out there for both teams, but that’s what we expected.”
Dvorak turned in another stellar performance for the Saints with 19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Among Dvorak’s 19 was a 4-point play late in the first half to keep the Saints within striking distance. Kaitlyn Wanner also was in double figures with 10 points to go with 6 rebounds.
“We’re very disappointed not to win, but I’m so proud of our kids,” Copas said. “They gave a tremendous effort. We had a chance. But like we told them, we’re not done. We’re excited to come back and play (Saturday) and we’re looking forward to it.”
Century, meanwhile, faces Mandan in the title game Saturday night. The Patriots are looking for their first title since 2013. Century is 3-0 against the Braves this season, including a 71-58 win in the West Region championship game seven days ago.
“We’re going to have to play our butts off, like we always do,” Keplin said. “It’s always special to play in a state championship game. It’s even more special when you win.”