Grant Nelson scores 16, nine players make 3s as Devils Lake beat the Knights 71-43.

Devils Lake’s head boys basketball coach Derek Gathman admits that he’s a defensive minded coach. So it was an obvious answer when asked which was more impressive most about his Firebirds 28 point win Tuesday night, the three pointers made or what Grand Forks Central was held to.

“I’m going to say the points although I kinda was hoping we would keep them under 40.”

Forty-three isn’t too bad either.

The Firebirds defeated the Knights 71-43 in the season opener for Devils Lake from the Sports Center. And yes, the Devils Lake defense showed out, but so did the shooters as the Firebirds made 11 3-pointers.

“I didn’t think we made that many but they were there. We tell our guys to shoot them when they’re open. It was a good confidence builder,” Gathman said.

Nine different players connected on a shot from beyond the arc, none made more than two and two players did that, brothers Grant and Leif Nelson ironically. Grant led all scorers with 16 points, scoring 10 in a dominant first half that also saw him pin a Knights’ shot against the glass on the defensive end and score a basket in the lane on the ensuing possession.

“With Grant Nelson in the middle and him being 6-8 he protects the rim for us so well that the wing guys can work a little harder because they know if they get beat, they have Grant there to help them out,” said Gathman. “I think we did a really good with our length in creating bad shots and contesting everything.”

The Knights opened the second half missing their first six shot attempts and only making one of their first 12 in finishing 16-of-53 from the floor. The Knights were taking out of the game early and quickly as Devils Lake opened the game with an 8-0 run that was upped to 14 after two free throws by Branden Fee made the score 16-2.

“It was awesome,” Gathman said about the run. “I wasn’t sure about their energy in the locker room and I chewed their butts a little bit to get fired up and I guess it worked.”

Josh Dahlen scored 12 points and Leif had eight as 13 players scored for the Firebirds.

Caden Fultz scored a team-high 11 points for the Knights (1-1) and Alex Barbot came off the bench to score 10.

Chris Harris can be reached at and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ