Firebirds knock off No. 3 Knights 65-58

Ray Maloney, Sports
Devils Lake’s Mackenzie Wade (10) applies defensive pressure to Grand Forks Central’s Rebecca Fee (5) during Saturday’s Eastern Dakota Conference clash at the Devils Lake Sports Center. Wade was one of four Firebirds in double figures as Devils Lake knocked off the Knights 65-58.

While history played a big part of Saturday's game against Grand Forks Central it was the near-textbook application of the little things that allowed Devils Lake to score one of its biggest wins in recent memory.

The Firebirds took the lead for good late in the first half and went on to defeat No. 3-ranked Grand Forks Central 65-58 at the Devils Lake Sports Center on a cold, cold January night.

Hannah Elshaug led four Devils Lake players in double figures with 19 points, while Mackenzie Wade and Steph Mertens each added 11 points and Sarah Schafer pitched in with 10 points.

Mertens became the fourth player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau with a free throw in the first half.

"We made a ton of big plays down the stretch," said Devils Lake coach Scott Privratsky, whose team improved to 5-2 in the Eastern Dakota Conference and 6-2 on the year with the win over the previously undefeated Knights.

A ton of big plays might be an exaggeration, but make no mistake, Devils Lake did rise to the challenge numerous times after seeing a 15 point halftime lead sliced to one point twice in the second half.

Central's first bid to regain the lead was thwarted when Haley Prozinski put back a Wade miss to put Devils Lake in front 48-45 with 7:29 remaining in the game before Rebecca Fee scored for Central the next time down the floor to pull the Knights to within 48-47 with 7:07 to go.

It was the Prozinski-Wade tandem that again kept Central at bay. This time Wade lobbed a pass over the Knight defense to Prozinski down low for an easy basket that gave the Firebirds a 50-47 advantage with 6:52 to go in the game.

Wade also delivered a 3-pointer, the only one for Devils Lake on the night, with four minutes to go that pushed the Firebirds out front 55-49 and seemingly ended any comeback hopes by the Knights.

"We really played well together," said Wade, who finished with three assists and one steal to go along with her 11 points.

Trailing by seven points Central was forced to foul in an effort get back in the game with just over one minute to go. That plan backfired as Mertens connected on four of five foul shots and Wade connected on two of her own to hold off Central.

Central opened the game with a basket by standout Caitlin Farroh, who finished with a game-high 21 points,  just 17 seconds into the game. But the Knights were never able to pull away from Devils Lake, which never trailed by more than two points in the opening nine minutes.

A free throw by Wade with 6:34 to go in the half put Devils Lake in front 15-14. It was a lead the Firebirds would never surrender.

Wade's free throw also sparked a 16-4 run by Devils Lake, which led 31-18 at halftime.

"It was fun and exciting to see (Mertens) reach her milestone," Privratsky said, "but the fact is we were jacked up all week and we were really ready to go (Saturday)."

"We came out with a lot of intensity," said Prozinski, who just missing out on reaching double figures for Devils Lake and ending the game with eight points and five rebounds. "This should give us more confidence ... we've got some big games coming up."

"This is one of the biggest wins I have been a part of," Elshaug said. "We know we can play with anybody and other teams are realizing that if they are successful in shutting down one player, we have others than can step up and get the job done."

Devils Lake is scheduled to entertain Belcourt on Tuesday at the Sports Center before hitting the road for a pair of key EDC battles next weekend. The Firebirds take on Fargo South on Friday and tangle with Fargo Shanley the following night.

GF Central (58): Caitlin Farroh 21, Jessica Lindsay 10, Rebecca Fee 6, Nicole Fennell 6, Courtney Hammer 5, Michaela Johnson 4, Taylor Hammer 4, Katelyn Olson 2.

Devils Lake (65): Hannah Elshaug 19, Mackenzie Wade 11, Steph Mertens 11, Sarah Schafer 10, Haley Prozinski 8, Kelley Olson 4, Chelsea Kurtz 2.

3-pointers: GFC 3-12 (Linsday 2, C. Hammer 1), DL 1-9 (Wade 1). Rebounds: GFC 48 (Farroh 12), DL 37 (Elshaug 11). Fouls: GFC 21, DL 16. Fouled out: none. Assists: GFC 12 (Fee 4), DL 14 (Mertens 7). Steals: GFC 7 (T. Hammer 3), DL 14 (Elshaug 4). Blocks: GFC 0, DL 3 (Mertens 2, Elshaug 1). Turnovers: GFC 23, DL 7.

Halftime: Devils Lake 31-18.