Weisbeck’s last-minute jumper lifts St. Mary’s past Wahpeton

As the St. Mary’s boys basketball team’s final possession came into focus, everyone in the building knew who was taking the shot for the Saints.

The fans knew it. The coaches knew. The players knew it. The only question was whether St. Mary’s senior guard Ben Weisbeck was going to make said shot with the game on the line.

Weisbeck possessed the ball at the top of the key while the rest of his teammates were 3-point extended down low. With the shot clock at four, Weisbeck put the ball on the floor before pulling up from 15 feet and draining the game-winning jumper with 33 seconds left, giving the Saints a 56-53 victory over Wahpeton in the Class A state tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at the Minot State Dome. St. Mary’s will play Century today at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals.

“I guess you just take what the defense gives you,” Weisbeck said. “It was really nice to have coach and my teammates have faith in me. If somebody else was open, I would dish it off to them. It’s just a lot of repetition.”

Having someone other than Weisbeck take the final shot was exactly what Wahpeton coach Jeff Ralph was hoping for with the game tied at 53.

“We’ve talked about that four-down play or whatever they call it with Weisbeck on top,” he said. “We were going to go to him and make him give it up, but we got caught looking at our guy. We have to make him give it up.”

Even with Weisbeck’s late-game heroics, the Huskies still had a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Wahpeton sophomore guard Carson Zarak drove to the basket and missed the shot, but was fouled by Weisbeck his fifth with 2.7 seconds left. Zarak made 9 of his first 11 free throws, but missed both. Zarak had a team-high 14 points.

St. Mary’s senior forward Scott Nagel hit one of two from the line at the other end, and a last-second desperation heave by the Huskies fell well short.

Weisbeck finished with 10 points.

The Saints came back from a 32-22 deficit at halftime, shooting 47.4 percent from the field in the second half. The Huskies closed the half hitting their final three 3-pointers, but were 0-for-6 in the final 18 minutes.

“We started to get things done on the defensive end,” St. Mary’s coach Brent DeKok said. “We dug in and we got stops on that end. In the first half, we kept taking the ball out of the net and it was hard for us to get anything in transition.”

The Saints limited the Huskies to 27.8-percent shooting in the second half as they hit just five shots. St. Mary’s opened the half on an 8-1 run spanning 4:27 before Wahpeton scored its first field goal. Treys by senior guards Brian Obritch and Darius Sparks pulled the Saints within one and an Obritch free throw tied it at 45 with 6:25 left.

A 3 by Ross Kopp gave the Saints their largst lead at 52-48 with two minutes remaining. A minute later, Thomas Nelson’s layup tied the game, leading to Weisbeck’s late-game heroics.

“I thought we defended really well,” Ralph said. “The second half, what really hurt us was we didn’t rebound like we did in the first half. When they missed, they offensive rebounded.”

The Saints held just a 26-25 advantage on the glass, but outrebounded the Huskies 19-11 in the second half.

Sparks finished with a game-high 18 points.

Wahpeton plays Fargo Shanley in a consolation game today at noon at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.