FARGO - A Jadyn Feist basket with just over two minutes remaining proved to be the difference, as West Fargo Sheyenne clinched a berth in the state tournament with a 56-50 win over West Fargo in an East Region girls basketball qualifying game in Fargo Saturday afternoon.
A lead that changed hands seven times in the second half switched for the final time, as the Mustangs, who forced a backcourt violation on the ensuing Packer possession, got Feist a clean look in the post, which she converted to give the Mustangs a 49-48 lead.
"I tried my best to get in front of (the defender) and (my teammates) got me the ball," said Feist, who had nine points and 10 rebounds.
Mustang Coach Brent Hintz said Feist's aggressive play in the post played a big role in the Mustangs overcoming a 29-23 halftime deficit. The sophomore's physicality down low helped get Packer frontcourt players in foul trouble, and the Mustangs took advantage at the foul line, connecting on 12 of 16 attempts.
The Mustangs shot just 6 of 25 from the field in the first half, but got a bit of a break going into the locker room, as Maggie Manson was fouled and sank two free throws with just one second remaining before the half. Manson, who was scoreless up to that point, finished with a team-high 13 points, and helped the Mustangs open the second half on a 6-0 run to tie the score.
The Packers took their final lead with just over three minutes to play on a basket by McKenna Becher, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds.
After an injury-plagued season led to an 8-16 finish a season ago, West Fargo improved to 15-9 this year.
While happy with the turnaround, senior players didn't feel much like celebrating after missing the state tournament by just one game.
"Our team worked really hard and it doesn't take anything away from that. But this really sucks," guard Grace Faiman said.
After a 1-2 finish at state last season, a veteran-heavy Sheyenne team is expecting better things when they get to Bismarck next week,
"We're not just happy to be there," coach Brent Hintz said. "We got their last year and it was a great experience. Our goal this year is to not just go to state, it's to go to state and make some noise. And we're really excited about that opportunity again this year."
The Mustangs will be the third seed in the East and will play the second seed out of the West at 3 p.m. Thursday.