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Mustangs boys basketball advances to East Region title game with win over rival Packers

FARGO—Since the beginning of its program, West Fargo Sheyenne has been like the little brother in its crosstown rivalry with West Fargo. Rivalries are about paybacks, and Sheyenne might not be the little brother now.

No. 3-seeded Sheyenne upset No. 2 seed West Fargo 74-71 in the East Region boys basketball tournament semifinals on Thursday, March 1, at Scheels Center at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. The Mustangs advance to the East Region championship on Saturday, March 3.

This game was a rematch of last year's East Region semifinals in which Sheyenne advanced to its first East Region title game and Class A state tournament in program history with a one-point win over the Packers.

"We've beat them twice now when it matters," Sheyenne's Zach Westphal said. "The first couple years, they just beat down on us. Now we're catching some speed and beating them a couple times. It's awesome. That's all I can say."

The Mustangs relied on their depth to take an 11-point halftime lead. Elijah Charles scored 10 of Sheyenne's first 14 points. Keaton Ballestad made a fantastic bounce pass from beyond halfcourt that set up Kemal Hajric for a layup to give the Mustangs a nine-point lead with about 3:40 to go before halftime.

Sheyenne worked the lead up to 13 points on a Westphal 3-pointer after halftime on his way to 13 points. Then East Region leading scorer Joe Pistorius sparked a 15-5 run to get that lead back down to three points. Pistorius willed the Packers back into the game and gave his team's offense life with steals, fast breaks and acrobatic layups. He scored 20 points in the second half and finished with a game-high 26 points.

"We didn't play hard enough in the first half and didn't run our offense," Packers head coach Adam Palczewski said. "They have some guys who can shoot it. We have to make them miss. You don't just count on someone to miss."

Sheyenne worked the lead back up to eight points on a stepback crossover 3-pointer by Christian Kuntz, who finished the game with 18 points. The Packers outscored the Mustangs 16-10 over the next five minutes, but Westphal hit clutch free throws at the end to put the game away.

"It's tournament time. We're trying to turn it up, and that's what we're doing," Kuntz said. "It was our time."

SHEYENNE (19-4): Kuntz 7 2-4 18, Ballestad 3 0-0 9, Westphal 3 5-6 13, Berg 3 5-10 11, Charles 4 2-2 12, Terhark 2 0-0 5, Hajric 3 0-1 6. Totals 25 14-23 74.

WEST FARGO (20-3): Zepeda 5 4-5 14, Sufi 3 1-3 8, Mertz 0 2-2 2, Pistorius 8 10-12 26, Liebl 1 2-2 4, Lyman 1 1-1 3, Lennon 4 4-4 14. Totals 22 24-29 71.

Half: WFS 39, WF 28. 3-point goals: Ballestad 3, Kuntz 2, Westphal 2, Charles 2, Terhark, Lennon 2, Sufi. Total fouls: WFS 23, WF 17. Fouled out: Charles, Zepeda.

Colton Pool

Pool is a reporter for The West Fargo Pioneer covering city sports and community news. He was the sports editor for The Dickinson Press covering Dickinson State athletics, high school athletics and Southwest Speedway. He graduated from North Dakota State with a degree in journalism and a minor in English. You can reach him by phone at 701-451-5715 or tweet him @CPoolReporter. 

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