Sheyenne girls fall one game short of first state tournament
The West Fargo Sheyenne girls basketball team made stride after stride as a program in the East Region tournament. The Mustangs were just one game away from qualifying for their first Class A state tournament in school history. Before that game, Sheyenne head coach Brent Hintz could see in the players' faces they wanted to make history—it just wasn't to be this year.
In their first ever state-qualifying game, the Mustangs couldn't get their shots to go and lost to No. 4-seeded Wahpeton on Saturday, March 4. No. 7-seeded Sheyenne lost at No. 2-seeded Fargo Shanley in the East Region quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28, before beating No. 3-seeded Grand Forks Red River in a loser-out game on Thursday, March 2, at the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
Hintz said ending the season and talking to his team afterward hurt more being so close to a state appearance.
"You end up talking more about the season, the process and about the future more than you talk about that game," Hintz said. "Usually the way we're wired is you win or you learn. You learn for the next one. ... It's more of a thanks for the process and the journey."
Kierra Freih, Yasmina Dokara and Maggie Manson all ended up with 10 points while Freih totaled a team-high seven rebounds.
"We were playing catch up the entire game and trying to climb out of a hole," Hintz said. "If you're struggling offensively a little bit, the last thing you want to try to do is mount a comeback."
On Thursday, March 2, Sheyenne held Red River to one basket over the course of nearly 10 minutes in the second half to take an 80-66 victory. Red River went into the East Region tournament with a share of the Eastern Dakota Conference regular season title. But Sheyenne wasn't worried about their matchup if it closed out strong.
"With the way the tournament was going to be, we knew the tournament was going to be crazy," Hintz said. "We felt like it could be one of those tournaments where you throw seeds out the window and just play."
Manson ended the game with 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting and 5 of 9 shooting from 3-point range to go with six rebounds and seven steals. Freih also scored a game-high 25 points on 8 of 17 shooting and added six rebounds.
Near the beginning of the second half, Sheyenne went on a 17-2 run over nearly 10 minutes and kept pace with Red River's comeback attempts from there.
Sheyenne had to beat No. 10-seeded Valley City 65-48 in a play-in game on Saturday, Feb. 25, to even make the quarterfinals. Freih made 9 of 14 shots—including 3 of 3 3-pointers and 8 of 9 free throws—for a game-high 29 points.
"You know what's riding on that game and for us to come out to a big lead early against Valley City was big" Hintz said. "Like so many play-in games, it wasn't always pretty or smooth, but with a lot of tournament games it was about being tough and gutting it out."
In the tournament quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28, Manson led Sheyenne with 20 points, but Shanley beat the Mustangs 69-52.
Reile Payne scored 24 points to lead the Deacons. Dokara chipped in 11 points and Freih added eight points for the Mustangs.
"I thought we played pretty well against Shanley and battled really hard," Hintz said. "We felt like if we could play that hard with that kind of heart then we could come in Thursday and give ourselves a chance to win."
Seniors Katelyn Ask and Annie McIntosh ended their Sheyenne basketball careers, but Ask said she was proud to help build the program and wouldn't have wanted to play for any other team or with any other teammates.
"Not many people get to say they get to start something," Ask said. "It's been one of the coolest experiences I've ever been a part of getting to start something and see how well we've progressed over the years."
Ask said she'll still be keeping up with the team even though she's done playing.
"It's hard ending a season anytime but especially when you know it's going to be your last one," Ask said. "I couldn't be more proud of the teammates I have. Being a part of a team like this is an experience I will never forget."