By Ray Maloney
Journal Sports Editor
Taylor Swanson continued to make the most of her limited playing time after returning from a leg injury.
Christa Lysne came up big at opportune times to help her team stay within striking distance.
Maddy Walford. Well, Walford simply made the biggest difference of all.
Walford connected on the game-winner with 13.6 seconds remaining in the game to lift Devils Lake to a 67-66 win over Valley City on Thursday at the Devils Lake Sports Center.
The win, which counted for two points in the Eastern Dakota Conference standings, improves Devils Lake to 3-4 in league play and 2-5 on the season. Valley City, meanwhile, drops to 2-3 in the EDC and 6-2 on the season.
Walford connected on a 10-foot jump shot from near the free throw line with the final shot for the Firebirds to lift her team to the improbable comeback victory.
That Devils Lake was even in a position to win the game did not appear likely in the first half.
After falling behind 10-6 in the early going, the visiting Hi-Liners went on a 13-2 spurt to grab a 19-12 lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the half.
They were able to extend the lead to 17 points (39-20) on a field goal from Mariah Olstad with 2:35 left in the half and matched that differential one minute later with Clarissa Olson connected from the floor to put her team in front 41-24 with 1:37 left in the half.
Valley City held a 41-29 lead at the intermission.
Devils Lake, which rallied from a large deficit earlier in the week before falling to Jamestown, repeated that feat against the Hi-Liners.
The Firebirds used an 18-9 run to start the second half to close to within 52-47 when Jaydn Fee connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 10:39 to go.
Swanson capped the comeback when she finished off a brilliant display of teamwork. Alexa Gathman stole the ball at midcourt and passed to Lysne, who in turn found Swanson all alone on the left side for an easy layup with 48 seconds to go to put Devils Lake in front 65-64.
It was the Firebirds’ first lead since leading 10-9 with 13:57 left in the open half.
Olson hit on two free throws with 40.1 seconds to go to give the lead back to the Hi-Liners and setting the stage for the dramatic finish. Valley City was unable to get off a shot following Walford’s heroic field goal.
Walford had the biggest game of her career as she finished with a game-high 24 points and nine rebounds, which was also a game-high.
Swanson, playing in just her second game this season, finished with 20 points and Lysne ended with 12 points.
Page 2 of 2 - Valley City was paced by Jessica Denholm’s 18 points. Olson and Madison Taylor finished with 17 and 10 points, respectively.
Devils Lake was scheduled to play Grand Forks Central on Saturday at the Sports Center as part of a doubleheader with the DLHS boys team. Those games were postponed earlier today by officials at both schools and will be made up at a later date.
Valley City (66): Jessica Denholm 18, Clarissa Olson 17, Madison Taylor 10, Dierra Diegel 9, Mariah Olstad 5, Madison McDaniel 5, Danica Diegel 2.
Devils Lake (67): Maddy Walford 24, Taylor Swanson 20, Christa Lysne 12, Jadyn Fee 5, Dru Lunday 2, Maddie Eriksson 2, Alexa Gathman 2.
Halftime: Valley City 41-29.