Three in double figures as Devils Lake slips by Wahpeton

Ray Maloney, Sports
Devils Lake’s Jacob Joramo (13) runs alongside as Wahpeton’s TJ Kline pushes the ball upcourt during Saturday’s tilt at the Devils Lake Sports Center. Jaromo and the Firebirds posted a 59-54 win over the Huskies.

For a team struggling to find wins on a consistent basis, Devils Lake may have found the right formula at the right time as the Firebirds got a big performance from Tyler Mertens and notched an important 59-54 win over Wahpeton on Saturday at the Devils Lake Sports Center.

“We knew Wahpeton would zone us and make it a slow and ugly game,” Devils Lake coach David Bitz said.

Mertens finished with a team-high 18 points for the Firebirds, but it was his spurt midway through the first half that proved to be more important for Devils Lake.

With the two teams tied at 6-6, Mertens put back a Devils Lake miss for his first two points of the game. He went on to score the next five points, as well, for the Firebirds.

“(Mertens) was the one guy who stepped up and played tough the whole game,” Bitz said. “He has that kind ability to take over a game.”

Wahpeton managed to take a narrow lead when Ryan Smith’s free throws put the Huskies in front for the time at 19-18 with 5:31 left in the first half.

The two teams traded the lead five times down the stretch before Devils Lake was able to take a 27-16 advantage at the intermission.

The see-saw affair continued in the second half, that saw four ties and a trio of lead changes.

It was not until Taylor Hoffart’s jumper from the left side that the Firebirds grabbed the lead for good. Hoffart’s field goal put Devils Lake in front 49-47 with 5:31 left in the game and Wahpeton would never be able to get any closer.

Ben Erickstad and Hoffart joined Mertens in double figures as that duo scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Firebirds.

TJ Kline led all scorers with 19 points for Wahpeton. Nick Holkup added 14 and Smith finished the game with 11 points.

Wahpeton (54): TJ Kline 19, Nick Holkup 14, Ryan Smith 11, Jeremy Bontjes 6, Bryce Wetzel 2, Zayne Medhaug 2.

Devils Lake (59): Tyler Mertens 18, Ben Erickstad 12, Taylor Hoffart 11, Jacob Joramo 7, Brantley Light 6, Nathan Mertens 3, Tate Cichos 2.

3-pointers: Wahpeton 3 (Kline 2, Bontjes 1), Devils Lake 0. Rebounds: Wahpeton 33 (Kline 9), Devils Lake 30 (Erickstad 6, Hoffart 6). Personal fouls: Wahpeton 20, Devils Lake 18, Fouled out: Smith. Assists: Wahpeton 11 (Wetzel 3), Devils Lake 3. N.?Mertens 1, T. Mertens 1, Erickstad 1). Steals: Wahpeton 7 (Smith 2, Kline 2), Devils Lake 9 (Joramo 2, T. Mertens 2). Blocked shots: Wahpeton 1 (Kline), Devils Lake 0. Turnovers: Wahpeton 24, Devils Lake 13.

Halftime: Devils Lake 27-26.