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WF boys basketball earns state tournament berth

Adam Leach of Grand Forks Red River jumps leaps for a rebound past West Fargo's Dustin Null during the East Region tournament semifinal game Friday at the Bison Sports Arena in Fargo. Red River won 70-41. Dave Wallis / Forum Communications Co.1 / 2
Lukas Johnson of West Fargo takes aim at the basket during the East Region tournament semifinal game Friday at the Bison Sports Arena. Dave Wallis / Forum Communications Co.2 / 2

The West Fargo boys basketball team entered the East Region tournament as the fifth-seeded team.

Now, after going 2-1 at the Fargo tournament, they'll get to represent the Eastern Dakota Conference as its No. 4.

The Packers defeated No. 7 Grand Forks Central 70-60 on Saturday to punch their ticket to yet another state tournament. This week's trip marks West Fargo's sixth straight appearance at state.

And while they were able to overcome odds once again to earn that berth, the biggest challenges may lay ahead. Because they were able to slip in as the East No. 4, West Fargo gets the privilege of facing Mandan, the West Region champions, as their first state tournament opponent.

The showdown begins at 2 p.m. Thursday at the FargoDome.

Although the two teams never met during the regular season, they do have some postseason history together. The last time they met at the state level was in 2010, when the No. 2 Braves thumped the No. 1 Packers 55-28 in the semifinals.

One thing the Packers have going for them is their prowess at creating turnovers. They led the EDC in steals by averaging 10.74 per game, and also averaged just one turnover per game to every 5.4 of their opponent's.

The key to beating Mandan, however, will be capitalizing on those opportunities. The Packers were third-best in the region with a points against average of 58.63, but only scored 57.74 points in return.

The Packers started last weekend's EDC tournament with a 66-54 win on the road over No. 4 Fargo Davies. This was followed by a 70-41 lopsided victory Friday by No. 1 Grand Forks Red River. West Fargo rebounded Saturday with the win over the Knights.

For his efforts, Brady Rotert was West Fargo's lone representative on the All-Conference team. The junior put up 27 points during the tournament, averaged 10.1 per game during the regular season, and was better than 41 percent from 3-point range.

Junior Justin Heisler led the Packers during their conference tournament after racking up a total of 40 points, of which 20 came in Saturday's win over Central.

Justin Schock and Andy Young each tallied 29 points.