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Packers shoot to make a difference

The Packers' Danielle Nelson (No. 25) sets a screen for West Fargo's Carissa Becher against Bismarck during summer basketball camp action. Submitted photo by Rachel Broer

It's likely no one at West Fargo's recent summer girls basketball camp had more motivation to try to make a difference in the fight against cancer than Mary Dejong.

A member of the high school's incoming junior class lost her father Tom Dejong to cancer during the summer of 2006. When head girls basketball coach Barb Metcalf sought to dedicate the team's summer camp to combating cancer, Mary and others sprang into action, and the camp, dubbed West Fargo Girls Basketball Pink Team Camp, became reality.

Eleven Class A teams from throughout the state participated in this year's camp, raising money for the American Cancer Society. Mary's mother, Becky Dejong, and basketball parent Diane Nelson helped organize concessions and cancer education booths at the high school and Sheyenne 9th Grade Center gyms.

"My dad is the one who got me started in basketball," said Mary. "He taught me how to dribble and shoot and everything."

Mary is one of several Packers who will get their first extensive taste of varsity basketball this coming winter for West Fargo with the recent graduation of most of the team's top players.

Metcalf saw her new team in action during the basketball camp for the first time, and she liked what she saw.

"We're going to be a different style of team. We're going to be quicker, and we're going to play some really tough defense," said Metcalf, entering her second season in charge of the Packers.

West Fargo made the state tournament this year for the first time since 2006, and the team is planning for a return trip next spring.

The Packers played three games at their summer camp and lost once to Bismarck in overtime with star Kate Holland, an incoming junior, on the bench with ankle problems. West Fargo beat Mandan and Grand Forks Red River.

"Everyone left is kind of the younger girls now, and everyone has played with each other a lot in traveling basketball," said Holland. "We're all used to each other. We're going to miss the seniors, but it's going to be a fun year."

Metcalf praised the camp performances of several players, including Holland and junior-to-be Carissa Becher as well as upcoming seniors Jenna Green and Courtney Voeller. The coach said incoming sophomore Alissa Mears also looked good.

Packer fans can continue to support cancer research by participating in the Relay for Life at Fargo's YMCA-West, which features an all-night vigil walk July 31-Aug. 1 from 6 p.m.-6 a.m.

"Everybody is affected by cancer in some way, whether it be someone you know from church or a friend or relative. Everyone you talk to has been affected in some way by cancer," said Mary, who hopes supporters of Packer athletics continue the fight.