The West Fargo Packers came with a game plan and it almost worked. They gave the Devils Lake Firebirds their second hardest contest of the season, but the girls held on and remain undefeated.

The West Fargo Packers came with a game plan and it almost worked.  They gave the Devils Lake Firebirds their second hardest contest of the season, but the girls held on and remain undefeated.

The Packers were prepared for the Firebirds devastating use of the full- and half-court press and traps and it was apparent they worked hard at breaking the press.  The Firebirds have killed teams this year with trap defense, frequently coasting to huge leads late in games.  The Packers weren’t always successful, and the Firebirds did force some turnovers, but the Packers broke through just enough.

The game started close, and the Packers were up by four, when the Firebirds defense made them cough up the ball and went on a 13-0 run, taking an 18-9 lead with a little over nine minutes left in the half.  The Packers offense tried to spread the floor and work the ball in, which they did, and pulled within six points.

The Firebirds defense went nickel and got them the stops needed.  They got their largest lead of the night near the three minute mark, a 19 point lead, but the Packers narrowed it to 14 to end the half, 48-34.

Packers five-player, Mariah Schatz ignited the Packers right at the start of the second half with a three from the corner.  The Packers then went on to give the Firebirds a little whooping, forcing turnovers, bad looks, and got a 15-3 run, pulling with two to 51-49.  A basket from Jess Mertens got temporary breathing room, but the Packers answered with two, making it 54-51 at the 9:15 mark.

Both defenses were playing hard, forcing loose balls and chasing them into a slew of jump balls.

The Packers came into the half sticking Abby Donarski to Mertens’ back, trying to run her off the floor, and putting a box-and-one on Mattea Vetsch, forcing her off shots.  The Packers, with Schatz in the middle, controlled the boards at both ends.  The Packers got within one, 54-53, with eight minutes to play.

The Firebirds’ defense bent but didn’t break, and put their offense at the charity stripe.  Jailyn Martinson found her way through the middle enough times—and to the line—to help keep the Firebirds offense going.

Ramsey Brown and Mertens teamed up a couple of times to force turnovers at half-court and get to the line.  All in all, the defense got the offense to the line enough to create 16-7 run and a 70-60 lead with 1:30 left to play.  The defense got a big stop with 48 seconds left, keeping the Packers offense spread and intercepting a pass as the shot clock wound down.  

Vetsch picked off the pass and hit Brown downcourt to put the game away.

The Firebirds won 75-64.

“Got to give the Packers credit,” said Justin Klein, Firebirds head coach.  “They came in with a plan and worked it.  They played a good game.  Mariah Schatz was really tough under the boards—and she hit a three.  We didn’t hit our shots tonight.  We had some good looks, but couldn’t get the ball to fall.  We won this game at the line.  It was a good game.  The girls understand you aren’t going to win every game by 30.  They played tough, had some good defense, and we got the win.”

The Firebirds had four players in double digits.  Jess Mertens led all scorers with 19.  Vetsch had 15, Brown 11, and Abby Johnson 10.  Chole Pfau had 16 for the Packers, and McKenna Becher 14.  

The Firebirds went 22-30 from the line, 16-20 in the second half.  The Packers were 4-5 on the night.

The Packers had 25 turnovers and the Firebirds 20.

The Firebirds are still undefeated team in the East Region at 16-0.  Bismarck is undefeated in the West Region at 17-0.  The West Fargo Packers fall to 11-6 in the East.