Oh, wow. This reporter’s still catching his breath from the Devils Lake Firebird girls win over the Shanley Deacons last Friday. That game was almost too exciting. A strong Firebird lead was eclipsed and fortune reversed, and with fewer that six seconds left on the clock the game was still anyone’s.

Oh, wow.  This reporter’s still catching his breath from the Devils Lake Firebird girls win over the Shanley Deacons last Friday.  That game was almost too exciting.  A strong Firebird lead was eclipsed and fortune reversed, and with fewer that six seconds left on the clock the game was still anyone’s.

The Deacons jumped to an early first half lead.  They were snaking through the Firebird defense, and the Firebirds just couldn’t get near the Deacon basket.  The Firebirds made the adjustment quickly going to full court press and trapping the ball at mid-court.  The Firebirds forced jump balls, bad passes, and got several steals.

Jess Mertens got the Firebird scoring going, and Kyleigh Toso was dynamic in the post.  The Firebirds went on a 10-1 run to take a five-point lead.  Mertens went to the bench with two early fouls, but Alex Palmer and Jailyn Martinson stepped up play, with Palmer hitting from the corners and Martinson’s quick hands making for some Deacon turnovers.

Then the Firebirds started making mistakes, mostly poor passing, that the Deacons turned into points.  At the two minute mark the Deacons regained a lead they’d lost ten minutes earlier, going up 35-33.  Mattea Vetsch grabbed a board and went coast to coast to tie it, but Reile Payne sunk both shots from the line on a double-bonus to give the Deacons a 37-35 half-time lead.

The Firebirds began the second half with a dismal performance.  Questionably timed passes and soft passes gave the Deacons a large opening to start building on their lead.  The Firebirds tried to get some easy buckets under the boards, but they were forced, looking for contact calls they never got.  The Firebirds spent five minutes without a bucket until Vetsch nailed one.  Without their tough defense, the spread in favor of the Deacons at the nine and a half minute mark would have been a lot more than the 10 points it was and stayed until about five minutes left, when then Firebirds back a slow climb back.

Vetsch started challenging the paint again and getting to the line, and the Deacon lead was down to four points with two-forty left.  Martinson took a run right through the middle of the Deacon defense and made it a three-point game, and Vetsch tied it at 57 on a layup and foul.  Toso got fouled on a defensive board and gave the Firebirds a 58-57 lead.  

Thirty-four seconds left in the game and the Deacons went up 60-59 on two freethrows from Hadley Huber.  The shot clock was running out and Mertens fought through the paint to give the Firebirds a 61-60 lead with four seconds left in the game.  The Deacons took a time out to set their inbound play, and then the Firebirds took a time out to reset their defense.  Mertens stole the inbound pass and went to the line with less than two seconds left in the game; she went one-for-two.  The Firebirds stole the next inbound pass to win the game, 62-60.

As this reporter said at the beginning: it was a heart attack win.

Vetsch had 15 for the Firebirds, and Mertens had 12.  The teams were pretty even a the charity stripe, with the Firebirds going 15-27, and the Deacons 15-24.