A quick start and strong push in the second half led the West Fargo Sheyenne boys basketball team to a victory over Devils Lake Tuesday evening.
By Harry Lipsiea
It is often said that in life patience is a virtue. That can also be true on the hardcourt, Devils Lake boys basketball head coach Derek Gathman pointed out.
In a hard-fought game against a tough conference opponent Tuesday, the Firebird offense settled too much on the offensive side of the ball, their coach noted.
"I thought our shot selection was a little timid," Gathman told the Journal. "A lot of times, I felt as if we were taking the first shot we got. There were plays that we could have had easy looks and instead we settled for longer shots."
A slow first half and a hard-charging West Fargo Sheyenne team were the differences in an EDC matchup at the Devils Lake Sports Center. The scrappy Mustangs earned a 63-55 victory over the Firebirds. Gathman credited the conference opponent for its efforts.
"I need to tip my cap to that group," the coach said of the Mustangs. "Those kids worked their butts of all night long. They flew around and really made it difficult for us. Sheyenne stepped up and beat us man-on-man. I was very impressed with them."
It was a tale of two halves. The Mustangs dominated the first half behind some key shots while the Firebirds had a difficult time putting together anything on offense. West Fargo Sheyenne's zone defense gave Devils Lake headaches throughout the first 18 minutes.
"We knew they were going to see a zone from them. It was something we worked on in practice. We were ready for it," the coach said. "But, our shot selection just wasn't there and Sheyenne played well."
At the half, the Mustangs led 30-16. Devils Lake charged hard out of the gates in the second half. Three-point shots by Jacob Mertens and Zach Dahlen got the team going. The Firebirds kept it going as a layup by junior post Jagger Miller and another three by Dahlen got the team within two points at 36-34. The Firebirds took a 41-40 lead after a three-point play by Dahlen, a turnaround jumper by Hunter Fee and a bucket by Mertens.
"I thought we did a tremendous job early in the second half," Gathman said. "We took our time on offense and made some excellent stops on defense."
Sheyenne answered back. Senior post Carter Bonnema went on a roll scoring six of the the game's next eight points. A three by Isaac Stormon gave the Mustangs a 51-41 lead. Devils Lake tried to cut into the deficit as senior guard Patrick Bracken hit a three of his own. But buckets by Dawson Anderson, Chase Erickson and Bonnema extended Sheyenne's lead to 11. The Firebirds never backed down. A jumper by Miller got the home team as close as six at 57-51. It, however, wasn't enough. Free-throw shooting and key defensive stops ultimately helped the Mustangs earn the 63-55 victory.
Overall, Gathman felt like the Firebirds played pretty well defensively.
"I thought our defense was good overall. There were some mental breakdowns. But, ultimately it was our defense that kept us in the game."
Dahlen had a big night for Devils Lake scoring 26 points. Mertens, Nik Desai and Miller each added seven points. Fee scored five points and Bracken rounded out the scoring with three. Bonnema led the Mustangs with 17.
Devils Lake hosts Fargo North Friday evening.
"We don't have any time to feel sorry for ourselves," Gathman said. "Fargo North is a very good team."