By Tyler Shoberg
In the end, Fargo Shanley was just too much.
After West Fargo rallied from an early 13-point deficit to tie it 16-16 with less than 7 minutes remaining in the first half, a strong Deacon presence outperformed Saturday during a state-qualifying game at the East Region Girls Basketball Tournament in Fargo.
The result: a heartbreaking 59-46 loss that ended West Fargo's up-and-down season for good.
The Deacons will join the East Region ranks along with Fargo North, Grand Forks Central and Fargo South - which won its sixth straight conference title - at this weekend's North Dakota Class A State Tournament at the FargoDome. They will face off against the West Region's Jamestown, Minot, Bismarck High School and Bismarck Century.
Finishing the year out by losing in a state-qualifying game wasn't what the Packers (13-9) were hoping for. They started the three-day tournament with a 60-51 loss Tuesday on the road at Devils Lake (13-9), who they split with during the season. This led to a do-or-die game Friday against Fargo Davies (4-18). Sparked by senior captain Katelyn Holland, West Fargo jumped out to a 14-point lead at the half before an eventual 79-57 rout.
Then it all came down to Saturday's game against Shanley (19-3).
From an observer's view, the Packers were playing a completely different game than they had the night before. Whereas their ball control - passing and rebounding in particular - was spot on during their win over the Eagles, something was missing against the Deacons.
Fargo Shanley made an early run that forced West Fargo to play catch-up. Down 16-3 with roughly 10 minutes left in the half, Holland started the Packer's march by dishing off a sweet pass to Danielle Nelson who scored on a layup. After the Packers stifled Shanley on their next attempt, Holland sunk one of her five 3-pointers on the night during West Fargo's next possession at the 8:50 mark. The ball kept rolling in the Packer's favor until a tie score at 6:46 forced the Deacons to call a time out.
The breather was all they needed. After the close call, Shanley didn't let West Fargo come within more than two points, and they never relinquished the lead.
So maybe the Packers weren't able to make it to the state tournament, but they still had some players who excelled during the season.
Holland was named All-Conference for her efforts (her third time earning the distinction). The Concordia College of Moorhead recruit led the EDC in 3-pointers with 47 (making 32.4 percent of her attempts, which also was a Top 10), and was fourth in scoring with 326 points total and an average of more than 18 per game.
Another top Packer was Nelson. The senior was No. 3 in the EDC in field goal percentage with 49.6, and was second in team points for the Packers after amassing 145 and averaging 7.6 per game.
Hayley Miller put up some impressive stats, as well, and will be a welcomed returner next year as a senior. She led the conference in 3-point proficiency with a 41.1 percent success rate (her 23 three-pointers was sixth best), and her 45.7 percent from the floor was a Top 10.
Junior Hannah Schnepf also cracked the Top 10 in the EDC after racking up 69 assists and averaging 3.8 per game.