After splitting a pair of free throws during the second half against Dickinson, Mandan center Elijah Klein lurked in the backcourt as the Midgets struggled to secure the rebound.
Midgets guard Jaiden Wright, with the ball in hand, whipped a pass from his precarious position on the sideline. Klein intercepted the pass and walked into a two-handed slam.
The Braves 6-foot-7 forward dominated the first half, and despite limited touches in the second, provided the game's biggest highlight as Mandan dropped the Midgets 68-63 on Tuesday, Jan. 15, from the Dickinson High Gym.
Klein finished the game with 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
"Elijah is a special player. He can do a lot with the basketball and he did a great job on the boards tonight," Braves head coach Brandon Schafer said. "I think tonight was one of his best games crashing the offensive glass."
Klein's offensive rebounds partially came as a result of Dickinson occasionally playing zone defense. As a Braves shot went up, the Midgets were unable to match up for a box-out, leading to Klein breaking free to the tune of five offensive rebounds in the first half.
Off of a Klein offensive board, Mandan junior guard Jaxton Wiest drilled a 3-pointer, followed by a three-point make from senior guard Keshawn Laframboise, giving the road team its biggest first-half advantage at 30-19.
When he wasn't making an impact on the offensive end, Klein was disruptive on defense, as his five first-half rejections helped the Braves enter halftime with a 34-28 lead.
"It's tough. I think he had five blocks in the first half and it affected the way our kids were attacking the paint," Midgets head coach Dan Glasser said. "Offensively, every shot he made was a lay-up, and give credit to him for putting himself in those positions."
Klein's counterpart, junior center Tallon Klatt, played with more force to open the second half. Klatt pulled down four offensive rebounds, attacked from the paint and did an excellent job of causing confusion within his position of the zone and limiting Klein's touches in the post.
With inside less of an issue, the Midgets trapped the Braves at half-court resulting in a series of turnovers. Dickinson junior guard Jaiden Wright was particularly aggressive with the traps, as his steal and layup close the home team's deficit to 44-43 midway through the second half.
Then after a stop on defense, the Midgets went ahead on a three-point play from Kobe Krenz.
The junior guard got hot, scoring 14 points within a five-minute stretch.
"Kobe is one of the streakiest shooters I've ever seen, and if he gets one to go, it can be like five in the next four or five minutes," Glasser said. "It's always nice to see him get one to fall cause then you never know how far it's going to go."
After a pretty Krenz layup, Dickinson enjoyed its last lead of the game at 48-47 before the Braves closed the game out, primarily from the free-throw line. Entering the bonus with 8:45 left in the game, Mandan scored 10 of its last 19 points from the charity stripe.
While Dickinson adjusted with pressure and better coverage within its zone, the visitors remained aggressive, building as much as a 68-55 lead in the final minutes.
"We've been seeing a lot of zone lately, and sometimes that makes team stagnant, but we were about to get ball-reversals, our guards were attacking and getting paint touches," Schafer said. "That helped us help huge, because we were able to control the game from the free-throw line. We got to keep our aggression when teams don't play man-to-man on us and I thought we did a great job of that."
While Dickinson left on the losing end of the result, the fans left the gym with a cheer, as Krenz knocked down a shot near half-court for his sixth 3-pointer of the game. He finished with a game-high 28 points, while Wright and Klatt followed with 15 and eight points respectively.
"We're so close. With Kobe's shot, we're two possessions away, two rebounds from being right there," Glasser said. "I think the kids are starting to realize that. We've had a good last three game, unfortunately we've only won one of them."
Mandan 68, Dickinson 63
M: Elijah Klein 26, Trey Wiest 10, Jaxton Wiest 9, Kashawn Lafrumboise 9.
D: Kobe Krenz 28, Jaiden Wright 15, Tallon Klatt 8, Jayden Hocker 6, Cody Maier 3, Issac Gjerde 2, Alex Praus 1.
Halftime: M 34, D 28. 3-pointers: M 6-21 (Lafrumboise 3-8), D 11-26 (Krenz 6-10). Free throws: M 16-20, D 6-8. Total fouls: M 11, D 15. Rebounds: M 34 (Klein 12), D 35 (Praus 6). Assists: M 9 (J. Wiest, T. Wiest 3), D 11 (Praus, Wright, Krenz 3). Steals: M 9 (J. Wiest 4), D 7 (Wright, Krenz 3). Blocks: M 6 (Klein). Turnovers: M 18, D 17. Records: M 8-4 (8-3 WDA), D 3-8 (3-7 WDA).