Mandan tops Legacy, advances to state championship

FARGO — Last season, Mandan lost in the state semifinals to Bismarck Legacy. The Sabers, in the program’s second season, went on to win the program’s first state championship over Fargo Shanley.
Mandan got its revenge and beat Legacy 64-59 in the North Dakota Class A girls basketball state semifinals on Friday, March 9, at North Dakota State’s Scheels Center.
“I knew we had to dive after and hustle for every ball,” said Mandan’s Megan Zander. “Every possession matters when it gets close at the end of the game.”
After exchanging the lead early on, Legacy’s Whitney Thomas scored 18 of her 28 points in the first half to give the Sabers a four-point halftime lead.
Then Mandan started the second half on a 12-2 run to take back the lead. Legacy head coach Jim Petrik said the Braves simply outworked his team.
“Oh crap,” Petrik thought. “When their players are getting confidence and layups and putbacks, it’s tough to fight.”
Zander kept Mandan in the game early with 13 first-half points and finished just three steals away from a triple-double. She totaled game highs of 31 points, 11 rebounds, seven steals and two blocks. After hitting just one 3-pointer before intermission, Kennedy Harris scored 11 points in the second for Mandan.
“We all knew losing to them, we couldn’t let it happen again,” Harris said. “We didn’t want that feeling.”
Harris said the Braves struggled to move the ball and relied on isolation scoring early, but that wasn’t the case after halftime. Mandan shot 46 percent from the field and 3-for-7 from 3-point range in the second half.
“Even when we came into the locker room (at halftime), it was dead,” Harris said. “We just needed that energy and that spark. I thought a lot of us had it, and when shots started to drop, I knew we were playing our game.”
Legacy nearly regained control of the game when Ashley Hulm got a putback to go with less than a minute left to cut Mandan’s lead to two points. But Mandan made enough free throws down the stretch to keep the game out of reach.
“We came out with a lot of momentum after halftime,” Zander said. “We had a job to get done. We had to finish it. It was a close game last year, and we lost out. So we knew we had revenge to get.”
The Braves move on to their first state championship appearance since 2008 which was the last of six consecutive state championships Mandan won from 2003 to 2008.
However, the Braves will have to face West Region No. 1 seed Bismarck Century in the title game. The Patriots beat Mandan all three times this season including in last week’s West Region Tournament championship.
“I wouldn’t want any other team with me,” Harris said. “I really want this year to be our year.”