There will be a new state champion in Class A boys basketball come Saturday.
Century made sure of that with a 73-59 victory over Fargo Shanley in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament Friday at the Minot State Dome, but it was much tougher than most anticipated considering the teams' records.
Shanley the defending state champion led by five at halftime, scoring 39 points on Century's typically stout defense. But the top-ranked Patriots, the West Region's No. 1 seed, needed just 2:34 of the second half to pull even and 3:27 to grab the lead for good. Century (22-1) plays St. Mary's today at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
Century senior Robert Hutchins drives baseline on Shanley senior Brandon Schott in the Class A state tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at the Minot State Dome.
Century senior guard Robert Hutchins knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half as part of a 21-4 run out of the break. Hutchins scored 10 points in the second half and finished with 18.
"They were big," Hutchins said. "It brought momentum to the team and got the team going."
Back-to-back baskets by junior forward Riley Henderson and senior forward Ben Holen gave the Patriots a 55-43 lead their first double-digit lead of the contest.
Century's defense stymied the Deacons the majority of the second half, but Shanley fought back with an 11-2 run to pull within three with 6:58 left. Shanley junior guard Spencer Jacobson hit a 3 and senior guard Patrick Strom and junior forward Kelvin Caga recorded buckets during the run.
"Their athleticism surprised our kids a little bit," Century coach Darin Mattern said. "When you have to put so much effort on Strom because he's such a good player, that's going to open up other opportunities for other players on the floor. Give their kids credit because the other kids made plays for them. When Strom starts hitting shots and other kids start hitting shots, they're a very good basketball team."
Strom entered the state tournament averaging 25.4 points per game, but the Patriots were able to limit him to 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Strom's final basket cut Century's lead to 60-56, but that was as close as the Deacons would get as the Patriots answered with a 10-2 run to reclaim a double-digit advantage with a minute remaining.
Shanley (9-14) shot 26.3 percent in the second half, hitting just seven shots.
"I thought they would eventually try to slow it down a little bit because the pace was more in favor of us in the second half," Shanley coach Shane Alderman said. "I kind of anticipated that, but I also thought if we could keep hitting shots and rebounding, we could have something to say about that."
Century prides itself on defense, which is why Mattern was none too happy with his team at halftime. The 39 points the Patriots allowed in the opening 18 minutes were more than they allowed in 36 minutes five times this season. They held Minot and Bismarck to 34 and 31 points, respectively, in their last two games.
"The biggest thing is we didn't do a very good job of guarding the basketball in the first half," Mattern said. "I thought they attacked us in all five spots. Our message at half was, 'If we're going to have a chance to win this game, we have to stop them from dribble penetrating.' For the most part in the second half, we kept the ball in front of us."
The first half featured two ties and six lead changes, with the Deacons leading the majority of the time. Balanced scoring paced Shanley as seven players recorded points in the first half. The Deacons shot 60 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from behind the arc in the opening 18 minutes.
"We knew they were going to come out right away," Hutchins said. "They're a good team. We have to go into every game thinking it's going to be close."
Strom, held to two free throws in the first 16 minutes, scored eight of Shanley's final 10 points of the half, including back-to-back 3s.
Century senior Tyler Rudolph kept his team within striking distance, pouring in 20 first-half points on 9-of-12 shooting. He tallied 16 of Century's final 18 points before the break. Rudolph finished with a game-high 30 points.
The Deacons play Wahpeton today at noon in a consolation semifinal.