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Tenacious Packers 'take care of business'

West Fargo's Amanda Levin (4) battles for position between Fargo Shanley's Alivia Fraase (5) and Haley Brenner during the East Region title game Saturday at the Bison Sports Arena in Fargo. David Samson / Forum Communications Co.1 / 3
West Fargo's Lexi Lennon breaks away from Fargo Shanley's Alivia Fraase to score in the closing minutes to ice the win last Saturday night during the East Region girls basketball title game at the Bison Sports Arena. David Samson / Forum Communications Co.2 / 3
West Fargo's Christine Baltezore dives for a loose ball Saturday night during the East Region championship game at the Bison Sports Arena. David Samson / Forum Communications Co.3 / 3

All season, West Fargo girls basketball coach Barb Metcalf has described her team as having a very "business-like demeanor."

On Saturday, the Packers took care of business with their first East Region championship in more than a decade.

West Fargo, which has lost just once all season, defeated Fargo Shanley 67-57 on Saturday to claim the Eastern Dakota Conference crown. The Packers defeated Valley City 74-47 in Thursday's opening round, and Grand Forks Central 73-66 in Friday's semifinal game.

"We have such a great group of gals who have worked hard all season," Metcalf said. "There is absolutely no drama with them. They take care of business and each other."

With their top seeding, West Fargo (21-1) faces West No. 4 Minot (16-6) at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Bison Sports Arena.

The remaining pairings are: West No. 1 Bimarck Century (19-3) vs. East No. 4 Fargo Davies (11-11), 1 p.m.; East No. 2 Fargo Shanley (18-4) vs. West No. 3 Mandan (16-6), 2:45 p.m.; and West No. 2 Bismarck (15-7) vs. East No. 3 Grand Forks Central (9-13), 6:45 p.m.

While the Packers seemingly coasted through the East Region tournament to their eventual title, the battle did not conclude without any casualties. Hannah Schnepf, one of West Fargo's senior captains, was injured during Thursday's game against Valley City.

"We're hoping she will be back this weekend," Metcalf said.

Even without Schnepf, the Packers managed to roll through Friday's and Saturday's games with relative ease; a testament to their depth.

"It throws a different type of rotation than we've been used to, but we're a deep team," Metcalf said.

Cases in point are Erin Krogh and Lexi Lennon, who were both named to the All-Conference team.

Krogh, a 5-foot-11 senior captain, finished the year averaging nearly 10 points per game, as well as 3.7 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.4 assists.

Five-foot-eight guard Lennon was a sniper on the court, and led the conference in shooting proficiency from 3-point range at 42 percent. The junior also averaged more than a dozen points per game, as well as 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

But West Fargo's talents don't stop there.

Just look at sophomore Cassidy Thorson who, during Friday's game against Central, amassed an incredible 32 points for a school record.

"She was in the zone," Metcalf said. "All our girls are unselfish, but she was one of the kids who I've been telling to shoot more."

Thorson hit double-digits in all three games to accumulate 57 points on the weekend.

Other top producers included Christine Baltezore, who had 29 points total, 15 of which were a game high against Valley City; Krogh with 22 total points; and Lennon, who was second behind Thorson with 41 total points, 21 of which were a game high against the Deacons.

The Packers will need to continue their team-based, business-like efforts if they hope to be as successful this week at state. While their first-round opponent, Minot, may not be ranked very high, they can't be brushed aside, either.

"The only experience we've had against Minot was during a team camp at NDSU. It was a very tight ballgame," Metcalf said.

Metcalf said West Fargo will need to concentrate on three aspects in order to be victorious at state: defense, shooting and shooting percentage, and ball handling.

Then, the girls just might want to focus on one more thing: their mantra.

"The word 'tenacity' has come up a lot, and I think we're going to stick with it," Metcalf said.