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Mustangs hope to combat Packer pressure

West Fargo’s Brynn Giesen and Callyn Johnson Sheyenne’s Rachel Blasczyk, middle, during a Dec. 20 matchup. The Packers' pressure proved too much for the Mustangs to handle, as West Fargo topped Sheyenne 54-40. File photo.

If you were taken aback by West Fargo's 54-40 girls basketball win over West Fargo Sheyenne on Dec. 21, many in the Mustang locker room shared your surprise.

A year after losing three times to their crosstown rivals by a combined 101 points, the Packers came out swinging in the first matchup this season, using a swarming, trap-heavy half-court defensive attack to open each half in dominating fashion.

They started the game on a 20-4 run, then scored the first 10 points of the second half after Sheyenne pulled within 25-18 at halftime

Saying he pressed his team to come out as the aggressors, Packer coach Mike Benson still sees the start of the first meeting with Sheyenne as a high-water mark to to season.

"That was probably the best (start to a) game we've had," Benson said. "The big key to most games is who's going to be the aggressor. And I thought we were the more aggressive team. We weren't afraid to get after them."

The Packers' greatest success that night might have been their ability to take the ball out of the hands of Mustang point guard Maggie Manson. Manson was held to one field goal that night, and admits the defense knocked her and her teammates out of rhythm.

"A lot of times, around the half court line they'd throw a double (team) at me," she said. "I was forced to pass the ball off instead of getting us set in our offense.

"Sometimes when I got the ball on the perimeter and start to drive they'd throw a double too, so that would force me to kick the ball earlier than I would have liked to and maybe not make such a great pass. It was pretty frustrating."

While scheme played a big part in the outcome, Mustang coach Brent Hintz says each team's effort also greatly impacted the final score.

"The thing I remember is how much harder they played than us in that game," he said. "That was something that was noticeable."

With the teams set to meet again this Thursday, all parties are anticipating a stronger effort from the streaking Mustangs, who are 7-2 since that December matchup.

Sheyenne will also likely be motivated to move on from a tough loss to Fargo Shanley Monday, in which the Deacons closed on a 27-11 run and leaped the Mustangs for second in the EDC with a 67-61 win in West Fargo

The Packers, who entered play Tuesday at 9-5 in the EDC, are also hoping to improve their seeding in the East Region Tournament as they enter arguably the toughest week of their regular season schedule. Two days prior to the rematch with the Mustangs, they hosted unbeaten conference leader Devils Lake.

While expecting a better showing from Sheyenne this time, West Fargo players say they intend to implement a similar game plan to the one that worked so well in December.

"(We want) to play some really good defense, get some turnovers and use those to get things going on the offensive end," leading scorer McKenna Becher said. "We have the same intent to come out with high intensity again and hopefully come out with another win."

Facing off with the rival Packers for the last time, Manson says she and her teammates are eager to get the bad taste of the first game out of their mouths.

"I think it's going to be a really exciting game, a really energetic game," the Mustang senior said. "Rivalry games always have that extra amp-up to them, (an) extra buzz in the atmosphere. We're ready for it."

Thursday's game at West Fargo High School tips off at 7:30 p.m.