Mandan downs Grand Forks Red River in first round of Class A girls basketball tournament

Red River's Shelby Frank and Mandan's Lakyn Darras scramble for a rebound during their game Thursday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

FARGO -- Mandan senior guard Aleah Clarke stepped to the foul line in the final 90 seconds with the outcome in question Thursday afternoon at the Fargodome.

She delivered. Clarke sank 2 of 3 free throws to give the Braves the lead for good as they scored a 46-45 victory against Grand Forks Red River in the first round of the North Dakota Class A girls state basketball tournament.

"She's been clutch all year from the line," Mandan head coach Abby Thomas said. "That's her go-to right there. I knew when she got fouled she was going to get at least 2 out of 3 of them. Those were just huge. It was the momentum we needed at the time that we needed."

Mandan (17-8) advanced to the semifinals. The Braves are scheduled to play Fargo Shanley at 1 p.m. Friday at the Scheels Center. Red River will play Bismarck Legacy in a consolation-round game at 4 p.m. Friday.

"I've never really been put in that kind of position so I was proud of myself and my teammates helped me through it," said Clarke, who finished with five points. "To be back in that semifinal game feels really good."


Red River (17-8) took a 42-38 lead after junior forward Jasmine Sondrol sank a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the second half. The Roughriders, however, couldn't hold the lead as Mandan countered with the next eight points.

"We missed some free throws down the stretch, we had chances. It didn't work out," Red River head coach Kent Ripplinger said. "It's been the story of our year. We've been close so many times."

The 5-foot-7 Clarke was fouled on a 3-point try with 1:21 remaining. She sank 2 of the 3 free throws to give her team a 44-42 lead. Mandan sophomore Piper Harris added two more free throws to give the Braves a 46-42 lead with 14 seconds to play.

"When you get to this point of the season, a win is a win," Thomas said. "Neither team went away. All you want is a win at the end of the day."

Red River senior Claire Leach sank a 3-pointer to cut the Mandan lead to 46-45 with four seconds to play. The Braves then missed the front end of the bonus, but Red River's final shot just past half-court was off target as time expired.

"Your heart's beating so fast," Clarke said of that final sequence.


Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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