Bismarck Century was the dominant team in North Dakota last season, winning its first 20 games and finishing the season 26-1 which culminated with a state championship victory over Mandan. The Patriots have been one of the most successful teams…
Bismarck Century was the dominant team in North Dakota last season, winning its first 20 games and finishing the season 26-1 which culminated with a state championship victory over Mandan. The Patriots have been one of the most successful teams in the state for a while now and with their two best players back this winter, that run should continue.
Must Be Replaced: Bailee Otterness, Katelyn Selensky, Mariya Kinnebrew, Megan Anderson
Century may return its top two scorers but it will have to replace four key seniors from last year’s team. Otterness, Kinnebrew, Selensky and Anderson all averaged between 4.5 and 7.1 points per game a season ago, giving the Patriots a perfect blend of high-end talent followed by waves of depth.
Key Returners: Lauren Ware, Lily Keplin
The Patriots will have the two best players on the floor in almost every game they play in this season as Ware and Keplin are elite at their positions and in their classes. Keplin is one of the best guards in the state and averaged 15.4 points per game a season ago. She shot nearly 60 percent from inside the arc last year, proving nearly impossible to keep out of the paint and away from the rim. If she takes even a small step with her 3-point shooting, she’ll be a nightmare to defend. Ware put up 17.1 points and 11.5 rebounds as a sophomore, while blocking nearly four shots per contest. She’s connected on nearly 60 percent of her shot attempts as well and if she continues to develop as a scorer inside and a free throw shooter, the Patriots have themselves two dominant offensive players.
Stepping Into New Roles: Chloe Markovic, Julie Fitterer, Jocelyn Julson
While a Ware-Keplin duo is good enough to win a whole bunch of games no matter who is flanking them, the Patriots have some things to figure out regarding the other three spots on the floor. With those four seniors gone to graduation, there will be quite a bit of opportunity for some younger players to step into big roles. Chloe Markovic would be a logical candidate for major minutes as she played a role as a sophomore and averaged 4.0 points per game. Sophomores Julie Fitterer and Jocelyn Julson saw spot minutes as freshmen and showed promise. If they can clean up their efficiency (and both should see a lot of open looks), those two could be valuable complementary pieces this winter and grow into more going forward.
The Patriots won 26 games last season and destroyed teams on a fairly regular basis. With their two best players back, that trend probably continues through most of this winter. The key to their season probably lies in how far those younger, inexperienced players come along. They certainly have quite the safety net with Ware and Keplin though. A state tournament appearance should be expected and they are on the short (probably nearly exclusive) list of state title contenders.