No. 2 Devils Lake uses strong second half to beat the Deacons 72-66.

No matter how good you are, at some point you will be challenged. So the question is what happens when that challenge comes along.

The second-ranked Devils Lake girls basketball team, up until Thursday’s contest against visiting No. 4 Shanley, had won all 12 previous games by no fewer than 18 points. So what happened when the Firebirds were challenged? They took command.

Ramsey Brown scored 16 points, Jess Mertens and Mattea Vetsch each finished with 11 points and the Firebirds came away with the 72-66 win over the Deacons to sweep the season series.

“It was a big home win, a good win for us,” said Firebirds head coach Justin Klein. “It was a good close game, a game where our main kids, our starters, had to play a full game. I think we haven’t had that really too much so I think overall that is going to help us.”

The unbeaten Firebirds went on 14-3 spurt over a seven minute stretch in the second half that turned a tie ballgame into a comfortable 11 point margin. However, with it seemingly on the verge of another double-digit triumph for Devils Lake, the Deacons closed the game on an 11-0 run that kept them from being victims to another rout.

“We didn’t do a very good job finishing the game. I think some of that too is that we haven’t had to finish a game so getting a rebound or running our offense to get a good shot or running the clock down so this game helped in that,” Klein said.

It was a tale of two halves. When the Deacons (11-2) took the lead at 13-12 four minutes into the game, they held onto the advantage, even upping their lead to 11 with 6:14 left before halftime. But the Firebirds scored the game’s next 11 of 12 points after a Mertens 3-pointer pulled Devils Lake to within one. Brown’s basket 51 seconds later gave the Firebirds the lead at 39-38.

A Olivia Manuel basket gave the Deacons their final lead of the game at 42-39. Devils Lake went into the locker room ahead 44-42.

“I give credit to Shanley. They played well. I think they improved a lot since we last played them,” said Klein. The Firebirds played the Deacons back on Dec. 11 and won that one by 18.

“I told the kids we’re human. We’re not going to beat everybody by 30. Everybody is going to be gunning for us, going to make changes and we’re going to have to adjust and keep changing our game plans to accommodate their changes,” Klein said.

Manuel finished with 18 points, 13 coming in the first half, Hadley Huber scored 12 points and Reile Payne, who was named Midco Sports Network’s Game Ball winner on Wednesday for her 22 point, 12 rebound game against Wahpeton on Tuesday, finished with 11 points.

Chris Harris can be reached at charris@devilslakejournal.com and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ

No. 4 Shanley at No. 2 Devils Lake box score

Shanley 42 24 —66

Devils Lake 44 28 — 72

FARGO SHANLEY (11-2)

Manuel 18, Huber 12, Busek 11, Payne 11, Hakim 8, Christmann 6, Srejma 0, Mattern 0, Heinrich 0. Totals 22 22-27 66.

DEVILS LAKE (13-0)

Brown 16, Mertens 12, Vetsch 12, Windjue 11, Olson 6, Ziegler 6, Martinson 4, Johnson 3, Heilman 2, Toso 0. Totals 23 20-25 72.