Packers stun South en route to State
For all of its youth, inexperience and overachieving, the West Fargo Packer boys sure look like one more word could be tied to the 2006 campaign.
West Fargo stunned the hottest team in Class A, Fargo South, with a patient and poised game in the EDC semifinal, en route to the runner-up spot at the Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament last weekend at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
After opening the tournament with a come-from-behind win over Grand Forks Central, a team that proved to be an upstart when it knocked off No. 1 Devils Lake for a berth of its own in the State A Tournament next week, the Packers fended off South, and then fell flat against Fargo North in the regional final. That puts West Fargo in the No. 2 position and poised for a match-up with Williston High next week, a team that has struggled to find its identity this year without standout James Hennessy.
We werent a team that was expected to do a lot this season, but these guys have believed all year long that they can play with anybody in the state, Greg Limke, who heads back to the State Tournament after a disappointing ending to the season last year, said. I think it shows that last year was kind of a fluke for this program. Were glad that we can get rid of the taste that last year left in our mouth and make it back to the state tournament.
West Fargo 48, Grand Forks Central 40
The Packer defense was stifling from the opening whistle, and downright scary in a third quarter that saw West Fargo go on a 16-9 run that gave them control of the game.
After trailing by five points going in to the half, West Fargo rolled in the third quarter thanks to the hot shooting of sophomore Tanner Farkas. The young point guard scored eight points in the third quarter, including two clutch 3-pointers that put the Pack well on their way to an opening round win.
Taylor Moch joined Farkas with 15 points on the day, as the Packer defense unleashed a Packer offense that struggled to just 15 points total in the first half of the contest.
Weve been executing well, but we havent been able to convert, which has been our problem at times this season, Limke said. When we let our defense get our offense going, that creates some fast break opportunities and some easier baskets.
Thats what happened in the second half, as the knights committed a handful of turnovers, on their way to 19 on the afternoon, and missed some key shots. That led to breaks, and the Packers rolled back into the game after they appeared to be headed to their second straight opening round loss.
Were happy to be on the winning side this time around, Moch said. I think we remember what happened last year a little bit and wanted to get that out of our way.
West Fargo 46, Fargo South 44
For the second straight game, the Packers were held under 50 points on the night and shot less than 40 percent. For the second straight day, it didnt matter, as West Fargo upset No. 2 Fargo South en route to their second EDC Title game under the lights at the Alerus Center. Its the Packs second trip to the EDC final in three years.
West Fargo played a slow, drawn out contest in order to stop Mike Hendricksons Bruins, limiting South to 16 field goals and 39 percent shooting.
We had to do that, Limke said. When we played them to close out the regular season, they could have named the score. We needed to go back and play them like we did earlier in the year when we pulled out a 52-51 win on their floor. We just put them in a box and tried to see if they could make shots. Lucky for us tonight they werent making them.
The Bruins were completely off in the third and fourth quarter, as they suffered through a dry spell that lasted more than 14 minutes. From the end of the second quarter through the three and a half minute mark in the fourth quarter, the Bruins scored three points, all free throws.
It was a must-do situation for Limke and the Packers, who saw a close game broken open by South guard Bobby Syal when he hit back-to-back 3-pointers at the 90 second mark in the second quarter. His six points stretched a small Bruin lead out to 11 points, and the Packers looked to be in trouble.
But West Fargo scored the last four points of the first half, first on a bomb by Moch and then a free throw by Idso, and the Packers cut the lead to seven points going into the half.
That was big. If we were down double-digits at halftime it would have been a lot tougher, Moch said.
But the Packers rolled in the third quarter, regaining the lead on a three-point-play by junior Seth Dye at the three and a half minute mark. South couldnt answer, and the Packers put up a 16-3 run in the third stanza, the decisive run of the game.
The contest, however, wasnt out of reach for South. Trailing by nine points when Idso, who struggled from the field all night, canned his first 3-pointer of the game, the Bruins were brought back to life by sixth-man Ismael Kareem, who hit a jumper in the lane for their first field goal of the second half. Evan Savageau followed with a fast-break layup, and the Packer lead was suddenly down to five, 41-36.
Down the stretch, it was West Fargo that went almost the entire fourth quarter without a field goal, but it wouldnt matter, as Farkas hit three of four free throws, and senior Ben Wolden, playing in just his ninth game of the season, hit what proved to be the game winners with less than 15 seconds left in the game.
I walked up there and just kind of knew that I had to make them, Wolden said. Its what you practice for.
Wolden, who had surgery in November on a shoulder he injured during the football season, wasnt shaken by the moment or a Hendrickson time-out. He swished both shots.
All he did when he was injured was shoot free throws, and I told him that one day that was probably going to pay off, Moch said. I guess that was today. I feel so good for him that we could win this one, and that he could do that. Its a great story.
West Fargo, which went two-and-out at last years tournament after winning the Eastern Dakota Conference regular season title, sent the Bruins to the consolation round while they prepared to take on Fargo North for the tournament title.
Fargo North 60, West Fargo 35
The Packers scored 13 points en route to a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, but scored just 22 points the rest of the night, as they lost in the Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament championship game for the second time in three years.
West Fargo didnt put a single player in double figures, and made just 12 shots from the field in its poorest scoring night of the season.
The Packers defense, however, kept up its good work, holding Eric Erdmann to just 15 points on the day. But wingman Eric May, who has emerged for the Spartans according to head coach Dan Schultis, scored 17 to lead all players in the final.
Hes coming into his own at the right time, he said.
West Fargo, which earned the No. 2 seed, will square of with Willison in the final game of the afternoon session (about 4:45 p.m.) on the boys side Thursday at the Alerus Center, also the site of the State A Tournament. West Fargo put up good performances against West Region teams, beating Dickinson, Bismarck St. Marys and Bismarck back in December at the East-West Holiday Tournament.
Were just glad to be back in the mix, Moch said. I think weve played hard this year in order to be in this position. This group of guys wasnt picked by anybody to be where it is this season, so were excited to be moving on.
Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament
West Fargo 46, South 44
West Fargo 12 22 32 46
South 13 29 38 44
WEST FARGO: Farkas 1 5-6 7, Idso 2 1-2 6, Wolden 2 2-2 7, Moch 6 2-2 16, Bishoff 0 0-0 0, Dye 4 2-3 10, Green 0 0-0 0, Gibson 0 0-0 0, Green 0 0-0 0, Gregory 0 0-0 0, Gatz 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 12-15 46.
SOUTH: Syal 2 0-0 6, Savageau 6 0-0 14, Sandvig 3 5-6 11, Utgaard 0 1-2 1, Glass 2 0-0 4, Clute 1 2-2 4, Kareem 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 8-10 44.
3-point goals: Idso, Wolden, Moch 2, Syal 2, Savageau 2. Total fouls: WF 10, FS 14. Technical foul: Glass. Rebounds: WF 18 (Idso 5), FS 27 (Sandvig 8). Assists: WF 6 (Farkas 4), FS 4 (Savageau 2, Syal 2). Steals: WF 6 (Moch 4), FS 4 (Savageau 2). Turnovers: WF 8, FS 9.
Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament
North 60, West Fargo 35
West Fargo 13 23 29 35
North 12 31 46 60
WEST FARGO: Farkas 2 0-0 4, Idso 0 5-6 5, Wolden 2 0-0 5, Moch 2 0-0 5, Bishoff 2 0-0 4, Dye 2 0-0 4, Green 1 1-2 3, Gibson 0 1-2 1, Gatz 0 0-0 0, Gregory 0 2-3 2, Reznecheck 0 0-0 0, Lund 1 0-0 2, Schnepf 0 0-0 0, Davison 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 9-13 35.
NORTH: Dehne 2 0-0 5, Erdmann 6 3-5 15, Ebert 5 0-0 10, May 7 2-2 17, Lake 3 0-0 7, A. Wehri 0 0-0 0, Z. Wehri 0 0-0 0, Bergeron 1 2-2 4, Larson 0 0-0 0, Staub 1 0-0 2, Sheets 0 0-1 0. Totals 25 7-10 60.
3-point goals: Wolden, Moch, Dehne, May, Lake. Total fouls: WF 17, FN 13. Rebounds: WF 16 (Wolden 3, Dye 3), FN 37 (Erdmann 9). Turnovers: WF 10, FN 10.