WATCH: Deacon girls rally past Mustangs, retake second in the EDC
WEST FARGO — A freshman center who didn't play a second in the first half, Emily Srejma likely wasn't many people's X-factor in Fargo Shanley's Monday showdown with West Fargo Sheyenne.
The time may have come for the rest of the Eastern Dakota Conference to take notice.
Srejma had six critical points in the second half, including a game-winning jumper with just over a minute to play, leading the Deacons to a come-from-behind 67-61 win over the Mustangs in EDC girls basketball play.
Though she wasn't the first option on the go-ahead possession, Srejma made the most of her opportunity, catching a Kate Busek pass on the left side of the basket just outside the paint, then swishing a jumper to put the Deacons ahead 61-59.
"It just kind of happened that way," Srejma said of the play. "I was just in the right spot at the right time and it just happened to work."
That wasn't her only go-ahead basket of the second half. After the Mustangs took a 57-56 lead on a free throw, Srejma caught a pass from Hadley Huber in the lane and converted a layup to put the Deacons ahead for the first time since early in the second half, 58-57.
Having worked her way slowly into the rotation in recent weeks, coach Steve Jacobson says he has grown increasingly confident in giving his freshman center big minutes in critical games.
"A lot of coaches would have been afraid to put someone in like that. But she goes in with the confidence of a starter and a player that's been playing for a couple years," Jacobson said. "I'll tell you what, she's going to be a big part of this team as we go on this year and she showed a lot of people tonight."
It didn't seem like anyone would be in position to make a game-winning play for Shanley midway through the second half. Kick-started by a pair of 3-point plays from Joely Goodiron, the Mustangs put together a 15-2 run to take a 50-40 lead midway through the second half.
But a smothering defense and potent offense that kick-started the rally faltered thanks to miscommunications on both ends of the court.
After struggling to get going for much of the night, Reile Paye, the EDC's leading scorer, helped erase the 10-point deficit completely, first with a cutting layup, then off a steal, when she swiped a Mustang inbounds pass then raced the length of the floor for a layup that tied the score at 56.
After a Mustang miss following Srejma's late jumper, Olivia Manuel picked an ideal time for her only field goal of the night, as she caught a cross-court pass from Busek and buried a jumper late in the shot clock with less than a minute to play to essentially ice the game.
Entering the night a half-game up on the Deacons for second in the EDC, Mustang players expressed disappointment knowing they missed a chance to give themselves breathing room in the standings.
"We stopped communicating on defense so we had a couple breakdowns," said guard Maggie Manson, who had a team-best 14 points. "And then for two or three minutes there we kind of had a lull where the ball didn't find its way in the hoop. We kind of let it slip away. That two-to-three-minute lull kind of killed us."
Haley Huber was one of four Deacon players to score in double figures, finishing the night with 15 points. Moriku Hakim also provided a spark as a big-bodied reserve, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds off the bench.
Now 11-4 in conference play, the Deacons move back ahead of the 11-5 Mustangs, and more importantly, clinch a tie-breaker following a season sweep.
Coming off a surprise double-digit upset loss at home to Fargo Davies, Jacobson knows his team still has a lot to clean up going into the postseason, and says he hopes the 27-11 close to Monday's game will help get some sloppiness out of their system.
"I'm glad it's happening now so we can get over it," he said. "We've got five games left (in the regular season), now we've got to start playing our best.
FS: Huber 15, Mattern 2, Payne 11, Busek 11, Manuel 2, Hakim 9, Srejma 6, Christmann 11
WFS: Manson 14, Huseth 7, Johnson 11, Goodiron 6, Weber 0, Dokara 11, Blasczyk 0, Dobrinz 3, Feist 5, Newton 4.