Packers qualify for state tournament, face Dickinson in Fargodome
It may have been a little more dramatic than some anticipated, but the West Fargo boys' basketball team managed to qualify for the state tournament with a win over Fargo North at the EDC tournament on Monday in Grand Forks.
It took until the 22nd game of the year, and what could have been a season-ending matchup, before someone other than Tanner Farkas or Seth Dye led the Packers in scoring. Michael Schnepf paced the Packers with 18 points in a 63-54 win over the Spartans that had four Packers scoring in double figures for only the third time this season. West Fargo faced a must-win situation after beating Grand Forks Central in its tournament opener before losing to Devils Lake Sunday on a last-second driving lay-up by the Firebirds' Beau Snyder. The Packers were behind most of the game against Devils Lake, before Jon Reznecheck tied the game at the free throw line for the Packers with seconds left.
"That was definitely demoralizing, losing that way after coming back like we did," said Farkas.
"We said to each other, let's leave it in the locker room," said Limke. "You can be angry until you leave here, and then it's over. We'll get to state..."
The Packers, who were seeded No. 1 coming into the tournament, secured the No. 3 seed from the East and face the West's No. 2 seed Dickinson Thursday at the Fargodome. Devils Lake beat Fargo Shanley in the EDC championship game.
"Today it was do or die, so there was a little more intensity, a little more focus, maybe in knowing that you need to get it done," said Packers coach Greg Limke after his team shot 50 percent from the field against Fargo North.
Aside from West Fargo's loss to Devils Lake where only four Packers scored, several players contributed in the other two tournament games. Gerrit Haerter made both of his field goal attempts for four points against the Spartans. Nathan Kuik tied his career-high with eight points in the opener against Grand Forks Central, shooting 4-of-5 from the field with five rebounds.
"Nate had some really big boards that boosted our confidence, and he got in there with those boards and got some points," said Tanner Farkas, who led West Fargo with 16 points against Grand Forks Central.
With the opening-round win, the Packers avenged a 17-point upset loss at Grand Forks Central in early February - a defeat multiple players described as embarrassing.
"After we lost up there, we were pretty mad about that," said Seth Dye. "We knew we had to come out and play strong."
"They had gotten our attention," said Limke. "We came out determined not to let that happen again."
Not at his best
Farkas, the Packers' leading scorer with 17.6 ppg during the regular season, was unanimously voted along with Dye to the all-EDC team. He's also the first person who said he wasn't at his best during the conference tournament. Farkas, voted all-EDC last year also, was 11-of-36 from the field combined during the tourney for 30 percent, well off his season average of 42 percent.
"Overall, with my play, I wasn't really happy," he said. "But the team effort was tremendous. Everyone played well, and that was what we needed."
Limke agreed his team captain wasn't at his best.
"I think the defense plays at a higher level in the tournament too, so that has a lot to do with it," said Limke. "Tanner played well, but can he play better? Yes, he can, and that's what we're looking for next week. He's been playing at a high level all year, and he'll pick it up (at state)."
Additionally, Dye was 14-of-39 from the field during the tournament, for 36 percent, 10 percentage points below his season average.
These Midgets play big
The Packers, 14-8 overall, play Dickinson in the first round of the state tournament Thursday at 3:45 pm at the Fargodome. The two teams didn't face one another this season and have only squared off twice in history with each team winning once.
The Midgets are 18-4 overall this season and won the WDA regular season title before losing by 15 points to Bismarck in the WDA tournament title game. They are led by 6-foot-5 senior Tate Kick, who is second in the state in scoring with 23.2 ppg. Kick leads the state in rebounding with 10.1 rpg and shot 55.3 percent from the field during the regular season.
"I know that Kick is probably one of the best players in the state, and I hear he's got some good speed too," said Reznecheck.
It'll likely be a matchup of solid Packer defense against productive Dickinson offense. Of the 18 Class A teams in the state, the Packers have the 13th-ranked team offense and second-best defense. The Midgets have the second-best offense and sixth-best overall team defense.
"We played some of them in the summer a tiny bit during a basketball camp at Fargo South," said Dye. "We're feeling pretty good. They have to travel a long way to get to the Fargodome, so I think we'll have more fans there."
West Fargo will likely need more scoring from players other than Farkas, Dye or Schnepf to go far in the state tournament. The Packers had zero bench points during the Devils Lake loss in the EDC tourney.
"We've mainly relied on three guys to do our scoring," said Limke. "We'd like to have more guys involved. That'll be key for us in the state tournament."
"We're going to come in and plan on winning," said Schnepf.