BISMARCK – Top-ranked and unbeaten Bismarck Century took the first step toward defense of its state title with an impressive 65-33 win over Grand Forks Red River Thursday in the first round of the North Dakota Class A girls state basketball tournament at the Bismarck Event Center.

The Patriots (25-0) have defeated four opponents in the postseason by an average of 23 points. That includes a 29-point dismantling of Mandan the week before in the West Region title game.

The Patriots led the Roughriders by 24 points at halftime thanks to a suffocating defense that forced 26 turnovers – leading to 20 points – and a 44-29 advantage on the boards.

“That’s a very good defensive team,” Red River coach Kent Ripplinger said. “We did miss a couple breakaways that might have given us some energy and closed the gap some, but you get a team like this that takes a lot of things away it’s hard to overcome.”

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Century post Lauren Ware was 10-for-14 from the field on her way to 25 points. Her all-around game included nine rebounds, seven blocked shots and three steals.

“We all know coming into the first game we’re going to have some jitters but we did a good job controlling our emotions and played our game,” Ware said.

Lilly Keplin added 19 points for the Patriots, who shot 41 percent and held the Roughriders (15-9) to just 26 percent.

“We talked about the defense we played last week and just had to come out and emulate that,” Century coach Ron Metz said. “We emphasize so many (defensive) drills and we drill it and drill it. But it takes heart from a number of players.”

Nine different Century players had steals.

Ware and the Patriots took control early and led 39-15 at the break. By the time the first half ended, the 6-foot-5 Ware already had 15 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.

Alex Page led Red River with eight points and Kendy Steffan added seven. The Roughriders made just 1 of 11 3-point attempts.

Half: Century 39, Red River 15

Red River: Fosse 2, Leach 6, Steffan 7, Page 8, Robson 2, Sondrol 2, Burris 2, Frank 4.

Century: Fridley 1, Klein 2, Walz 1, Markovic 5, Rudolph 2, Fletcher 1, Fitterer 2. Kinnebrew 7, Ware 25, Kelpin 19.