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West Fargo finds a silver lining

It certainly wasnt the finish that head coach Lynette Mund wanted, but the West Fargo Packers road to this years State A Tournament was a much more comfortable trip than in years past.

The Packers cruised to a win over Fargo Shanley in the regional quarterfinal, and then played through a barnburner with Devils Lake in the semifinal, qualifying for their first regional championship game since 1998. With two wins in their first two games, the Pack qualified for the State A Tournament next week.

Its nice because we were able to come out with no pressure in that last game. Its not an all or nothing situation like weve been in the last couple of seasons. But we still wanted to win. We wanted to leave here with a tournament title, Mund said.

Instead, the Packers, who captured the Eastern Dakota Conference regular season title, settled for silver, falling to Fargo South 53-41 in a mistake-filled contest that was a bit anticlimactic for a dramatic run by Munds Packer girls. After all, this tournament run was made without one of the Packs main stars, point guard Mary-Michael Vance.

I know these girls that stepped in were ready, but its always difficult to play with kids that are in a new situation. They all handled it very well. Mary-Michael is a big part of the reason were here, but these girls did a great job without her and were happy to be moving on, Mund said.

West Fargo 60, Shanley 38

The Packers played arguably their best game of the weekend in the tournaments opening game, rolling to a 22-point win over the Deacons.

Andrea Hummel led the way for the Packers with 14 points inside, while Tiffany Gjestvang added seven points and seven rebounds.

Shanley actually led after the first eight minutes of play, 11-10, but a 16-6 run in the second quarter put the Packers ahead for good. West Fargo used its inside presence to set the tone, but it was Jo Haerter who picked up the slack on the outside, scoring 11 points and hitting a key 3-pointer in the second quarter to spark the Packer run.

Ali Edwards, moving out to a guard spot for much of the game, handling the ball, scored 11 points, while Sara Dell, also filling a backcourt role, added 10, as West Fargo had four players in double figures.

We were really happy with the balance we showed, and we werent panicked when we got down in that first quarter, which is what can happen in opening round games. I think we played as a team, and thats a good sign, Mund said.

West Fargo 57, Devils Lake 56

West Fargo played its closest game since an overtime loss to Fargo North earlier this year, as neither team held more than an eight-point advantage at anytime in this contest.

The Packers led by one point at the end of the first eight minutes, but Devils Lake took a five point lead early in the second quarter behind the hot shooting of Nicole Hoffmeyer. A 3-pointer by the Firebirds Emilee Soper stretched the lead to six at the three minute mark of the first half, but the Pack rallied back with a 6-1 run, and a running jumper in the lane by Haerter tied the two teams at 28 going into the halftime intermission.

Haerter got things rolling for West Fargo in the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but Devils Lakes Emily Black scored five points in a 10-2 run that gave the Firebirds a 43-37 lead at the three and a half minute mark. Ali Edwards stopped the bleeding temporarily with a jumper from the wing, but Becca Mertens and Sarah Kuntz each answered with baskets to give Devils Lake a 47-39 lead, their largest advantage of the game.

But before the end of the first half, reserve forward Jenny Capouch received a feed from Dell and converted a lay-in while being fouled, and the three-point play turned the momentum back to the Packs side.

Thats a huge play. They scored on their next trip down and it would have been a 10-point lead for them, but Jenny made a play that really kept us in the game mentally. And that kind of carried us into the fourth quarter, Mund said

The fourth quarter saw West Fargo erase a five-point disadvantage within the first two minutes, as Hummel converted twice inside and Edwards scored once to give the pack a 50-49 lead. From there on out, it was Dell that keyed the Packer offense, as she scored once from the line and twice from the field to keep Devils Lake at bay. The junior wound up with 13 points on the night, second on the team, and had just three turnovers while running the point.

I think we all kind of had to dig deep and do a little extra without one of our key players tonight, Dell said. I know I was looking to be a little more aggressive in the fourth quarter, and I was lucky enough to get some shots to fall. Devils Lake is a tough team, and were glad to get the win.

Edwards, a 50-percent free throw shooter when she was a sophomore, hit what proved to be the game-winning free throws with 20 seconds left in the game when she hit both shots after being fouled on her way to a lay-up. The senior staked the Packers to a 57-55 lead just 19 seconds after Firebirds standout Ashley Privatsky tied the contest with a jumper in the lane.

You have to hit your free-throws, even when its not late in the game, Edwards, now one of the leading free-throw shooters (and 8-for-8 on Friday night) said.

Privatsky had a chance to win the contest after Black hit one of two free throws and Dell missed the front end of her one-and-one with just over seven seconds left in the game. She drove at Edwards, but the Packers rotated help inside, and Privatsky launched a wild shot that caromed off the glass and into the hands of Gjestvang, who ran out the clock.

We knew that she would probably get the last shot, and that shed try to drive, Edwards said. I just didnt want to foul her and give her a chance to win it with free throws. She got by me but our inside players shut off the lane and she had to shoot an off-balance shot. All I know is Im glad Tiff got the rebound, Edwards said.

It put the Packers, once the last team to qualify for the EDC Tournament back in 2001, into the East Region final for the first time since 1998, when Collette Folstads squad went undefeated in EDC Play.

Weve come a long way together and were not going to just settle for second place here, Mund said. I think we are still capable of taking home the EDC championship. That would be a special way for this group to go out.

Fargo South 53, West Fargo 41

Fargo South dominated the opening stages of the game, but West Fargo mounted a serious comeback and had the lead down to six points. The Packers could have had the ball and cut the game to a one-possession contest, but they missed a rebound off of a free-throw attempt, and the Bruins held on for the win.

Hummel topped the Packer scoring sheet with 15 points, and Edwards added 14 more, but the Packer backcourt of Haerter and Dell combined for just seven points as the Bruins captured the EDC Tournament crown.

West Fargo was outrebounded for just the third time this season, and badly, 33-15, as the Bruins fought for position and won. And the Packers could not find an answer for senior star Cammi Greenheck, who had 16 points to lead all scorers.

We knew shed be tough to stop defensively, especially without Mary-Michael. She had her best game against us, so thats saying something.

The Packers used a full-court trap to try to work their way back into the game, and it worked. The Bruins committed 24 turnovers to just 17 from the Packers, but the speed and presence of Greenheck running the floor and the rebounding edge was too much for the Packers to overcome.

So, instead of carrying the EDC Champions banner into the State A Tournament, the Packers will play as the No. 2 seed for the first time in more than a decade. West Fargo will square off with the Bismarck Demons on Thursday afternoon (about 3:45 p.m.) at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. The Demons are the No. 3 seed from the Western Dakota Association conference.


Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament


West Fargo 57, Devils Lake 56

Devils Lake 12 28 49 56

West Fargo 13 28 44 57

DEVILS LAKE: Privratsky 5 3-4 16, Hanson 3 2-2 8, Soper 1 4-6 7, Mertens 3 0-0 6, Black 2 2-4 6, Burtness 2 0-0 5, Hoffmeyer 2 0-1 4, Kuntz 2 0-0 4, Ness 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 11-17 56.

WEST FARGO: Edwards 5 8-8 19, Dell 5 2-5 13, Hummel 4 2-2 8, Haerter 3 0-0 7, Gjestvang 3 0-0 6, Capouch 1 2-3 4, Doggett 0 0-0 0, Kussatz 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Byzewski 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 12-16 57.

3-point goals: Privratsky 3, Soper, Burtness, Edwards, Dell, Haerter. Total fouls: DL 18, WF 18. Fouled out: Hummell. Rebounds: DL 28 (Black 6, Burtness 6), WF 29 (Edwards 12, Gjestvang 7). Assists: DL 10 (Privratsky 7), WF 10 (Edwards 3, Kussatz 3). Steals: DL 10 (Privratsky 4), WF 3. Turnovers: DL 8, WF 14.

Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament


South 53, West Fargo 41

South 11 23 38 53

West Fargo 4 15 24 41

SOUTH: Greenheck 4 7-8 16, Pattison 5 0-0 10, Sauvageau 3 2-2 8, Lee 3 0-0 7, Stensgard 2 1-2 5, Gagner 1 0-0 3, Brodeur 1 0-0 2, Hageman 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 12-14 53.

WEST FARGO: Hummel 3 9-10 15, Edwards 4 5-6 14, Haerter 2 1-2 5, Gjestvang 1 2-2 4, Dell 1 0-0 2, Doggett 0 1-2 1, Capouch 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Kussatz 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 18-24 41.

3-point goals: Greenheck, Lee, Gagner, Edwards. Total fouls: FS 19, WF 16. Rebounds: FS 33 (Stensgard 8), WF 15 (Hummel 3, Haerter 3). Assists: FS 13 (Greenheck 6), WF 6 (Edwards 2, Dell 2). Steals: FS 9 (Greenheck 4), WF 9 (Kussatz 4). Turnovers: FS 24, WF 17.