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Crazy finish provides girls with little consolation

After the West Fargo Packer girls opening round, double-overtime loss to Bismarck High, a game that could have gone either way about three or four different times in the final eight minutes, head coach Lynette Mund was at a loss for words.

I dont know, she said. Ive never seen anything like that. We were ahead by six points, we were behind by nine. We were done at the end of regulation, and then we were in double overtime. Somehow, someone had to lose, and I guess thats a shame.

The loss, which was sealed by an Ivy Gilbertson free-throw to complete a three-point play as time expired in the second extra period, sent West Fargo spiraling into the consolation bracket for the third time in as many years. It also ended the Packs hopes for their first state championship, after winning the Eastern Dakota Conference regular season title, since 1998.

But West Fargo rebounded to come back, literally, in both the consolation semifinal and final to capture fifth place, their highest finish since 1998s run to the championship.

Bismarck 73,

West Fargo 72 (2OT)

Lost in the shuffle of the two dramatic overtimes, each of which ended with dramatic baskets by the Demons Ivy Gilbertson in the post, was the spectacular shot by Ali Edwards that actually sent the game to overtime.

West Fargo suffered through a terrible third quarter after mounting a second-quarter comeback that gave them a three-point lead at the end of the first half. In that eight minute span, Bismarck looked like they would cruise into the State A Semifinal, outscoring the Packers 16-6 and limiting them to just two made shots from the field.

The third-quarter spurt was keyed by center Ann Baltzer, who scored 12 points in the third quarter alone, en route to a team high 21 points.

She got position on us a few times and was really good about finishing, Mund said of the Bismarck senior. She hurt us in regulation.

But West Fargo, which trailed by as many as nine points throughout the half, including at the start of the fourth quarter, mounted a furious comeback.

Guard Adee Diede gave Bismarck a nine-point lead with a jumper to open the fourth quarter. From there, the Packers responded, working inside to Andrea Hummel and Tiff Gjestvang, who scored back-to-back buckets. After Demon guard Jess Weninger hit the front end of a two-shot foul, Jo Haerter answered with a three on the Packer end, slicing the lead to two points.

The two teams would trade baskets until the two minute, 30 second mark when Mary-Michael Vance, who had just been cleared by doctors to play at state, drained a 3-pointer from the left elbow to tie the game at 50-50.

All she wanted to do was play, and she wanted that so bad, Mund said. That was a big-time shot by someone who was really sick and wound up playing a lot of minutes today.

But down the stretch, Bismarck converted four free throws to the Packers one, and held a 54-51 lead with 18 seconds left.

Mund set up a play to get Edwards free for the game-tying shot. She got the ball just to the left of the top of the key and was stripped by Diede, and in the ensuing scramble, the ball popped back over to Edwards. The senior stepped to her left and drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, tying the game at 54 with four seconds left.

West Fargo forced a turnover on the ensuing Bismarck inbounds play, and Edwards got one last shot. She sailed a 3-pointer over the rim with four-tenths of a second remaining, and the game went to overtime.

Bismarck took an early advantage when Diede drained a 3-pointer at the outset of the first overtime, taking a 57-54 lead. But West Fargo battled back, and actually led by three with 13.6 seconds left when Vance hit one of two shots from the line.

The Demons would use dramatics to force overtime No. 2. Gilbertson moved inside and was fouled on a shot with 3.9 seconds left, and made the first free throw. She missed the second, seemingly on purpose, and Sarah Dell, a West Fargo junior, hauled in the rebound. But, the officials ruled she hopped after grabbing the board, and the ball went back to Bismarck. On the inbounds play, Weninger found Gilbertson, and the senior center knotted the game at 64 as the horn sounded.

In overtime No. 2, Edwards took over. She scored on a runner in the lane, and then hit two shots on a technical foul called on the Bismarck bench. She would hit another free throw, and then find a cutting Haerter for a score and foul. Haerter hit the free throw, giving West Fargo a six point lead with two minutes remaining.

But the Packers, with the lead, were inept down the stretch, turning the ball over three times and fouling Bismarck twice. With time stopped, Bismarck scored twice, cutting the lead to 72-70.

After another Packer miss, this time by Gjestvang, Bismarck had the ball for one final possession, trailing by two points with 3.9 seconds left. Weninger took the last shot with 2 seconds left, and the rebound caromed to Gilbertson. She converted, and was fouled by Edwards in the process. With no one on the floor, she hit the free throw, and sealed the win.

Edwards, who finished with a game-high 29 points, was dejected after fouling out, and watching her team lose.

She did everything she could, Mund said. She hit the big shots we needed all night. If we needed something, Ali got it done. The shot at the end of regulation was just a big time play.

But the Packers fell in dramatic fashion to the consolation bracket for the third time in Munds three trips to state.

We just have to keep going, she said. As a senior, you want to win that last game. Well see. You just have to put this one out of your mind, which will be really hard to do.

West Fargo 62,

Grand Forks Central 57

The Packers came out ready Friday afternoon, rolling to a six point advantage in the first quarter and avoiding any sense of a letdown after Thursdays grueling loss.

But Central stormed back with a14-8 run in the second quarter, and tied the game at the half. The Knights used a zone defense to slow the Packer offense down inside, and eventually led after three quarters of play by three points.

West Fargo turned to its backcourt much of the game, and their guards delivered down the stretch. Dell converted on two big baskets, while Edwards and Vance combined for 42 points and six 3-pointers on the afternoon. That would be enough, as the senior and junior tandem pushed the Packers to a 22-14 fourth-quarter and a five-point win.

Were usually able to wear teams down in that fourth quarter, Mund said. We do a lot of running in practice. Sometimes they say it seems like thats all we do. But when it comes to a game like this, it pays off. We usually have more energy in the end of the game. So the fourth quarter is really our time.

Edwards, who scored 29 in the quarterfinal, added 25 in the consolation semifinal to stake herself atop the tournament scoring list. Vances 17 was better than Miss Basketball finalist Alys Seay, who had just 13, well below her season average.

We knew wed have to keep her in check, Mund said. Thats always easier said then done.

West Fargo 50, Minot 40

The Packers reached the consolation final for the second straight year, and ended the season with a win for the first time in Munds four-year tenure, capturing fifth place at the State A Tournament with a 10-point win over the Magi.

Edwards continued her roll through the tournament with another 20-plus point performance, pouring in 21. She hit three 3-pointers in the game, her second straight game with a trio of long-range shots.

Shes been so key for us all year, Mund said. I was really happy to see her have a good tournament and go out like that.

The Packs seniors rebounded from the heartbreaking loss in the opening round with a pair of come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter. West Fargo trailed by three points at the end of three quarters of play for the second straight game, but used the fourth quarter to come back, and eventually pull away.

Free throws were a big factor, as the Packers made 10-for-10 from the line down the stretch. Vance and Edwards were a perfect 14-for-14 from the line on the day, combined.

Gjestvang pulled down 11 rebounds, giving her 23 on the tournament to lead the Packers.

Our inside players didnt do a lot of scoring throughout the weekend but they stepped up when we needed. Tif keeps things alive inside with her rebounds for us. Shes maybe overlooked because she doesnt have the big scoring games, but she does a lot of things right.

West Fargos Hummel also capped off her career with a win. Earlier this season, she joined the 1,000 point club, joining Edwards to be the first Packers since Kelsey Gatz to reach that plateau.

Fellow seniors Jill Kussatz and Emily Johnson were the other key pieces in the Packer run to the consolation title.

I know its still hard to get over Thursdays game. We had bigger goals than this. But the girls showed a lot of character. Thats what being an experienced team is about, Mund said.