Devils Lake takes over fourth in the Eastern Dakota Conference with its win over Grand Forks Red River.

Devils Lake wasn’t half-steppin’ Monday night against Grand Forks Red River — the first 11 minutes of the game demonstrated that.

The Firebirds, led by Grant and Leif Nelson but got contributions from across the board, jumped on the Rough Riders early and almost never looked back in the 72-60 win from the Sports Center in a pivotal Eastern Dakota Conference boys basketball game.

“Our start of the game is about as good as we could’ve have started,” said Firebirds head coach Derek Gathman.

“Offensively, we were getting good looks, we were scoring inside and they only scored four, six points in the first four minutes. So that was huge.

“If we could just play like that, with energy and defend we’ll be pretty good.”

The Rough Riders were held to just four points over the first eight minutes of the game and only had six at the seven minute mark as the Firebirds built a 19-point lead during that span. The Rough Riders didn’t score into the double digits until a Bryce Enerson basket with 4:54 remaining until halftime.

The Firebirds led 31-20 at the break.

But the Rough Riders (10-8) was able to cut the deficit to seven twice. Up 45-38, Gathman called a Firebird timeout. On the ensuing possession, Joey Frelich connects on 3-pointer with Red River’s Kobe Stringer leaping towards him that pushed the lead back up to double-digits. A little over two minutes later, Cole Benson’s two free throws cut the Firebirds advantage back to seven at 58-51.

However, Luke Aanstad’s two free throws on the next possession were the first two of 11 the Firebirds made from the charity stripe over the final 3:19 of the game, including four straight by Michael Widmer who connected on two technical free throws plus the two for the foul that put the Firebirds up 70-57 with 44 seconds remaining.

Grant scored 21 points, Leif scored 17 points and Frelich added 13 points for the Firebirds, who with the victory, moved a half game ahead of the Rough Riders in the EDC standings for fourth at 10-7. The win also gave the Firebirds the tie-break.

“This preseason we were ranked 10th out of 11 (in the EDC) and we took that as a slight. These guys in the locker room are the only ones who believe that they belong were they are. It has been a source of pride for them — they’ve been playing with a chip on their shoulder,” Gathman said.

“After this win, we’re sitting in a good spot and hopefully, we’ll be in the first round without having to play in the play-in game.”

Enerson led the Rough Riders with 21 points. Brady Dvorak had 11 points.

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

Grand Forks Red River at Devils Lake box score

Red River 20 40 — 60

Devils Lake 31 41 — 72

RED RIVER (10-8)

Enerson 21, Dvorak 11, Springer 9, Benson 5, Obioha 5, Klefstad 4, Feller 3, Steckler 2, Flom 0. Totals 20 13-20 60.

DEVILS LAKE (10-7)

G. Nelson 21, L. Nelson 17, Frelich 13, Widmer 9, Greene 3, Dahlen 3, F. Hanson 2, Shepherd 2, Aanstad 2. Totals 23 20-29 72.