WATCH: Packer boys take down Sheyenne, grab control of EDC destiny
WEST FARGO — Before Eastern Dakota Conference leading scorer Luke Lennon could even crack the scoring column, his West Fargo boys basketball teammates had already built a double-digit lead over rival West Fargo Sheyenne.
Unsurprisingly, things didn't level out much once Lennon found a rhythm.
The Packer star forward had 20 points and 14 rebounds and the fifth-ranked Packers took control of their EDC destiny with a 73-58 road win over third-ranked Sheyenne Friday night.
The first half went about as well as could be conceived for West Fargo, which scored the first six points and grabbed the first four rebounds of the contest.
After the lead stretched to 12-2, Lennon made his presence felt in a big way over the next three-plus minutes. He converted a 3-point play to push the lead to 15-2, then scored the next seven points for the Packers, who found themselves ahead 41-19 at the half.
After struggling to defend the perimeter in the team’s first meeting, an 85-73 Sheyenne win in December, the Packers shut the Mustangs down inside and out in the first half, allowing just one 3-pointer and using their size advantage to take away Mustang back cuts in the paint.
“Our goal was to get a hand in the face, just be in front of them and contest shots,” Packer coach Adam Palczewski said. “And when you do that, you give yourself a chance."
The highlight of the defensive performance was limiting the effectiveness of Christian Kuntz. Needing 19 points to become the first 1,000-point scorer in Sheyenne history, Kuntz didn't score until the final possession of the first half. He finished with 12 points.
While Lennon made the biggest impact, he had plenty of help from the rest of the frontcourt. Carter Birrenkott finished with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals, with Hunter Lyman recording a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double, as the trio helped the Packers stretch their lead as high as 25 early in the second half.
The only downside of the night came when Lyman took a hard fall on a dunk attempt in the closing minutes. Despite being seen limping with ice on his left knee afterwards, Palczewski didn’t seem concerned about his long-term health.
“He could have played if we needed him to,” Palczewski said. “He'll be all right."
Following the play, the Mustang bench was assessed a technical, which led to the ejection of coach Tom Kirchoffner, who had been assessed a technical earlier in the half.
Asked whether he feared potential discipline for being assessed a technical, Kirchoffner said he planned to speak with state officials over the weekend, but added “I’m not too worried about it,” saying he felt he’d escape discipline since the second technical was indirect.
What he was more worried about was the sloppy effort of his team, which fell to 14-2 in EDC play and saw its chances at a conference title greatly diminish.
Despite the poor play Friday, he also isn’t worried about any lingering effects the loss will have on his team when the postseason comes around.
"We came out flat,” he said. “Didn't come ready to play, that's it. I'm disappointed with them, but last year we lost by 30 to them at their place then beat them (twice in the postseason). It's a good loss. I'll let them learn from it."
The mood was understandably better on the Packer end, as they now have a shot to earn the top seed at the East Regional if they win out. Also 14-2 in the EDC, the Packers on Friday host a 15-1 Fargo Davies team they defeated in Fargo last month.
The most important thing on the team’s mind Friday was snapping a three-game losing streak to the rival Mustangs.
"It feels great to win and since it’s Sheyenne, it feels even better,” Birrenkott said. “We haven't beat them in awhile. It feels great.”
WF: Bruer 11, Miller 5, Birrenkott 18, Lyman 12, Lennon 20, Aden 5, Hegerle 2, Moton 0
WFS: Kuntz 12, Berg 5, Reynolds 7, Terhark 7, Dubois 7, Goldade 3, Moni 3, Dettmann 14