Mustangs girls rely on defense to beat rival Packers
Mike Benson laughs at the idea of trash talking against Brent Hintz.
Even in an emotional in-city rivalry game between the West Fargo and West Fargo Sheyenne girls basketball teams, the two head coaches have respect for each other.
Benson, now the Packers head coach who was an assistant coach at Sheyenne last season, already knew how skilled the Mustangs were.
The Mustangs gave the Packers a tough time finding any offense as Sheyenne cruised to a 70-30 Eastern Dakota Conference victory on Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Sheyenne High School. This was just the second time the Mustangs had beaten the Packers since Sheyenne started its own varsity program.
Hintz could tell Benson has already made his mark on the program. The Packers have played faster both offensively and defensively this season, Hintz said.
"They played some really good defense for the first 10 minutes of the game," Hintz said. "I think we were playing some good defense too."
The Mustangs (7-2, 6-2 EDC) were on a three-game winning streak after beating the Packers. Despite only losing to Grand Forks Red River and No. 3-ranked Fargo Shanley, the Mustangs hadn't won three games in a row all season.
Hintz said having all his players back and healthy has been important. Hintz said the Mustangs have finally gotten a chance to build chemistry.
"Every night is the same. We just play hard and leave it all out on the floor," said Sheyenne guard Maggie Manson, a University of North Dakota commit. "Moving forward, it's just being consistent in our offense and our defense and continuing to build on what we've started."
Turnovers plagued both teams early on, but the Mustangs took the first lead and never let go. The Packers didn't score their first points until after three minutes into the game and didn't score again until six minutes later on bonus free throws.
The Mustangs struggled to find much pace on the offensive end as well until they put together an 18-8 run in the final six minutes of the first half. The Mustangs slowly built up their lead in the second half with tough defense even as more bench players got in the game. The Mustangs allowed 54.1 points per game this season going into the game.
"We're still old school. We believe in defense," Hintz said. "We didn't get off to the greatest start offensively, but we talked about if we keep getting stops then eventually the offense would come."
After early offensive struggles, Manson said the Mustangs found their stride after they started moving the ball around. Yasmina Dokara led the Mustangs with a game-high 16 points while Manson and Kierra Freih each added 11 points.
"Obviously there's just a different atmosphere playing a rival," Manson said. "We were ready to go on defense. We were excited to put it all together and make things happen."
McKenna Becher led the Packers (4-5, 4-4) with 10 points. Becher said the Packers had some nerves, but they knew they had to start strong to keep up.
Becher said the Mustangs drove the ball well and the Packers didn't communicate well enough to stop those drives. She hopes the Packers continue to bond as the season goes on.
"I think we're definitely improving," Becher said. "Our girls are still working really hard. We've just got to figure out what we have to do to get better each and every day."
The Mustangs threw a variety of defensive looks at the Packers and made finding a look at the hoop tough. A full-court press with a half-court trap defense allowed the Mustangs to take advantage of their length and athleticism.
"Give Sheyenne all the credit. They came and prepared. They've got good players, good coaches and good people," Benson said. "They did a nice job tonight."
Halftime: WFS 31, WF 14
WF: Faiman 5, Johnson 2, Becher 10, Diemert 4, Donarski 2, Beal 3, Geisel 4.
WFS: Dietz 2, Manson 11, Huseth 2, Johnson 4, Goodiron 3, Weber 7, Dokara 16, Hoffner 6, Freih 11, Dobrinz 6, Lamp 2.