WEST FARGO — There was plenty on the line as crosstown rivals West Fargo Sheyenne and West Fargo clashed in an Eastern Dakota Conference girls basketball matchup Thursday on the Mustangs' home court.
Sheyenne looked to redeem itself after dropping a 72-50 loss to West Fargo earlier this season. And with four regular-season games remaining, both teams are fighting to lock up a top-five seed in the looming EDC tournament.
The Packers are fifth in the EDC standings after Thursday's game, and are one step closer in the race to the region tournament after picking up a 65-55 win over the Mustangs.
"It's always a fun game and a fun atmosphere," Packers head coach Mike Benson said. "This was a game that probably is going to decide who the fifth seed is, and that's a big game, because then you don't have to play the play-in game. We knew we had to take care of business if we were gonna likely end up with the same record as them."
The Packers rose to 9-8 overall and 9-7 in the EDC, and next face Fargo South (3-13, 3-12 EDC) on the road at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. The Mustangs dropped to an identical record both overall and in conference play, and host Fargo North (1-14, 1-13 EDC) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
West Fargo senior McKenna Becher scored 21 points to carry her team to the rivalry win.
"She's been a very consistent player for us. Not just scoring, but as far as communication," Benson said. "We've challenged her to become a leader and she's taken on that role. When things aren't going right, she's able to make something happen. It's really a luxury to have a kid like that."
Becher said the contest was both a big and important win for her team.
"On the offensive end, we moved the ball around a lot and were able to get it to the people we needed to," Becher said. "Just talking a lot tonight and then stopping some people that we needed to."
The Packers knew they would need to halt Sheyenne's leading scorer Jadyn Feist to be successful.
"I think we could've rebounded a little better," Benson said. "Jadyn Feist, an excellent player for them, just kicked our butts on the offensive glass there. She really played well for them. We seemed to snag some at the right time and battle through some tough situations."
The Packers kept Feist, who has averaged at least 14 points per game this season, to just two points in the first half.
"Right away I thought we played really good defense," Benson said. "I thought we executed some things at the end there pretty nicely, some out-of-bounds plays and baseline, full-court plays to break the press."
A 19-4 run gave the Packers an early lead that they held onto. The Mustangs struggled getting shots to fall, with freshman Karson Sanders putting up the team's only four points in the first 11 minutes.
The Packers grabbed a 17-point lead on a pair of free throws Becher sank with ease in the foul-heavy first half. Becher and Miriley Simon led the charge for West Fargo, putting up eight points apiece in the frame.
A Joely Goodiron 3-pointer inched the Mustangs closer in the final few minutes of the half, but the Packers couldn't be stopped. Goodiron paced the Mustangs with a team-high 13 points.
Sheyenne found its footing right away in the second frame, launching a 13-2 spurt in the first few minutes. After being down by 20 points a minute into the second half, the Mustangs closed the gap to just six points (42-36) with 11 minutes to go.
The Packers pulled ahead on an eight-point run with buckets from four different players. Down by 14 with 4 minutes, 32 seconds left, a Goodiron bucket cut into the deficit, but Becher responded for the Packers, sinking two free throws.
With the hopes of fueling a Mustangs comeback, Peyton Breidenbach converted a steal and layup after her 3-point attempt circled around the rim. As Sheyenne was down by 10 with two minutes to go, the Packers drew four fouls, adding five points in the double bonus.
Half: West Fargo 35, West Fargo Sheyenne 16
WF: Becher 21, Simon 12, Van Winkle 10, Giesen 7, Diemert 5, Walsvik 5, Schaffer 3, Pfau 2.
WFS: Goodiron 13, Feist 11, Clemens 8, Sanders 8, Huseth 6, Fagerland 5, Breidenbach 4.