Packer girls battle Red River
The regular season girls' basketball finale between West Fargo and Fargo South had no bearing on the conference standings. The Packers already had fourth place clinched, and the Bruins had a lock on third. Both teams wanted to go into the EDC tournament at Grand Forks riding a high with some confidence.
The Packers will have to look elsewhere for momentum after a 68-53 loss that snapped their three-game winning streak. West Fargo coach Lynette Mund said she expected more from her team.
"I don't know - I didn't expect this," she said. "We had played pretty well lately. We had a nine-day layoff. That didn't help anything, but that's not an excuse. We just weren't attacking like we worked on."
Thanks largely to an earlier win against Valley City, worth two points in the conference standings, the Packers finished 10-6 in EDC points despite finishing the season with a losing overall record of 9-10.
Senior Mary Michael Vance, the Packers' leading scorer this season, took a positive approach to dealing with the loss against the rival Bruins.
"We definitely wanted to win, but it's just one loss. I think if anything it might push us to work harder and might actually benefit us," she said.
The Packers play Grand Forks Red River tomorrow. Their two-game series this season was split with each team winning by four points. The Packers beat the Rough Riders in the third game of the season and lost the second matchup on Jan. 26. Vance led the Packers in scoring in both games, and the Riders out-rebounded West Fargo on both occasions. Red River lost its last two games to East Grand Forks and Devils Lake.
"We're pretty even," said Mund. "It's going to be an exciting game, probably one of the better games of the first round. If we can get our shots to fall and at least be aggressive and not tentative..."
During the second half against Fargo South, the Bruins routinely lobbed passes over the Packer defense to their six-footers. West Fargo has no six-footers this season, and it's been very evident, especially when the Packers match up against teams that do. Red River has a sophomore six-footer and features very balanced scoring. The team's top five scorers, from leader Vanessa Riski at 10.7 ppg to the fifth-leading scorer at 7.2 ppg, compliment each other well. After Vance at 15.5 ppg, the Packers next leading scorer is JoJo Haerter with barely half that at 8.3 ppg. The key for opponents in the post season will be to shut down Vance, which is no easy task. The only team to do so this year from the EDC is Grand Forks Central, but the Packers still won that game despite having no one score in double figures. It was also Vance's first matchup since a four-game layoff due to illness.
"Red River should be a good game," said Vance, the third-leading scorer in the EDC. "We know what they do. They know what we do. It should be just straight up basketball."
It'll be a post season that almost didn't come for Sara Dell. If her ankle injury had been any worse, she would have sat out her entire senior year instead of the 13 games she did miss. Thanks to a dedicated recovery effort on her part, she's been a valuable contributor off the bench for the Packers who, despite the loss to South, have still won three of their last four games, including a recent win over Devils Lake, the No. 5 team in the state.
"It's been very frustrating. Once I got back, then I had to get into shape and work really hard at that," said Dell. "Not everything fell into place right away. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. I'm closer, but I still don't feel like I'm 100 percent."
Dell would likely have started the entire season had she been healthy, but right now she's just happy to be back. She said she thinks her team has what it takes to turn some heads during the double-elimination EDC tournament. Two wins, and the Packers land a spot in the Fargodome for the state tournament March 8-10.
"I think we have a pretty good chance," said Dell. "We're in the top four right now. If we can play like I know we can, I don't think we're going to have any problems in making state."
One ankle to another
Three seniors, three injuries. First Vance sat out the first two games of the season with shin splints. Then Dell missed nearly the entire year following ankle surgery. Now Haerter has a torn ligament in her ankle that caused her to miss the Fargo South game. Mund said Haerter is probable for the EDC tournament.
Why not Valley?
Prior to Saturday's play-in game when the identity of the boys' basketball team's first round opponent was up in the air, Tanner Farkas hoped it would be Grand Forks Central, a team that recently beat the Packers by 17 points, instead of Valley City, a team the Packers beat by 25 points in January.
But why would a team on a roll like the Packers want to play a team that dominated them three weeks ago instead of Valley City, whom the Packers had zero trouble with?
Farkas said the Packers want a chance to prove the loss in Grand Forks was a fluke. He shot three-of-15 from the field, while Seth Dye was six for 21.
"There's definitely going to be some revenge going (if we play Central)," he said. "If we do play them, we'll be ready this time. We'd rather play Central because of the fact that we lost to them once already when we shouldn't have."
Stats don't lie
The Packer boys' basketball team is a perfect 9-0 when three or more players score in double figures. Farkas and Dye have little trouble scoring more than nine points a game. Farkas failed to only once, while Dye missed double digits five times in 19 games. If someone else steps up with a hot hand or has a lucky night, it seems West Fargo is unstoppable.
An all-around all-stater
West Fargo hockey player Tyler Swanson was named first team all-state after last weekend's state tournament. The junior defenseman, who had 14 points this year, has also been named all-conference two years running. Additionally, Swanson made second team all-state in football last fall as a running back.
Packer of the Week
Farkas was everywhere against Fargo South last Thursday. He created opportunities on steals that led to fast breaks while really turning it on the second half. He hit his free throws down the stretch and led the Packers to the season EDC title and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Swimmer Garett Abraham is co-Packer of the Week for winning his second straight conference diving title.