The Devils Lake girls basketball team picked up an important victory Friday.
By Harry Lipsiea
Coming back from a disappointing loss isn't easy. For the Devils Lake girls basketball team, Friday evening was just what the doctor ordered. A win over an Eastern Dakota Conference foe in front of their home crowd lifted the spirits of the Firebirds after five straight conference losses.
Strong bench play, good energy and improved shooting were key in the team's 75-54 victory over Fargo North. With the triumph, the team improves to 4-6 overall and 3-6 in conference play. It was a good way to respond after a 24-point loss at the hands of West Fargo Sheyenne Tuesday, Devils Lake head girls basketball coach Justin Klein pointed out.
"I think it was a very good bounce-back victory for us. We came out flat against Sheyenne and they took it to us. It may have been a well-needed wakeup call for us," the coach pointed out. "The girls really responded tonight bringing a lot more energy to the court. Overall, it was a good team win that should give positive momentum."
The Firebirds had a number of key performances off the bench Friday. Abby Johnson finished with eight points while Alex Palmer and Chiara Olson each added seven points.
"We got into some foul trouble during the game. It was great we were able to have some kids off of our bench and do a good job. Our reserves gave us a boost tonight," Klein said. "It was really great to see."
It was a pretty tight game early on. The Firebirds were able to pull away late in the first half thanks to key outside shooting. After a shot by Anna Astrup pulled Fargo North within five points at 25-21, Devils Lake took over in the final four minutes. A layup by Mattea Vetsch and a shot from beyond the arc by Taylor Windjue gave the squad a nine-point advantage.
The Firebirds kept it going as Windjue nailed another three. It was then Johnson's turn to make a shot from beyond the arc. Mattisyn Barendt scored two points to close out the first half and give Devils Lake a 40-26 advantage at halftime.
The second half was more of the same as Devils Lake continued to control the action. Steals and buckets by Mertens and Johnson gave the team a 49-34 advantage. The Firebirds kept it going as Palmer nailed a jumper and added a free throw to give the squads an 18-point lead.
Fargo North battled back as Remington Vannett hit a three and Astrup added a layup to get the team within 11 at 56-45. The Firebirds never let it get any closer. Olson hit a three and added a layup. A layup by Averi Ziegler, jumper by Olson and three by Windjue helped the home team extend its advantage to 20 points. Devils Lake was able to close out the 75-54 victory.
Klein felt that his team may have let the Spartans hang around. The coach, however, credited his squad for stopping runs by North in the second half.
"There were times it seemed as if they could get it within 10, but credit our girls for making stops and hitting some shots," Klein said. "While I thought we could have played with more urgency at times, we did a good of answering their runs."
Windjue scored 21 points to lead all players. Mertens added nine points while Johnson added eight. Palmer and Olson scored seven points each. Ziegler chipped in with five points.
Macy Schneider, Barendt and Abby Heilman scored two points each.
It was an improved shooting night for Devils Lake, Klein pointed out.
"I still think we need to shoot better at the line, but we were better offensively," the coach said. "We made five three-point shots from the outside which is a good sign. Finishing on the drive and making lay-ups is going to be something we are going to work on, but I thought we shot the ball pretty well overall against Fargo North."
Devils Lake travels to Fargo Davies for an EDC matchup.
"It's going to be a tough matchup on the road. They are a talented team who has gotten better since we played them last," Klein said.
"But, they are dealing with some injury issues. Our goal is to be in the game down the stretch and give ourselves a chance late."