Devils Lake girls win overtime thriller to advance to East Region Tournament

Sam Herder
Emily Schafer scores two of her 18 points in Devils Lake's 62-61 overtime win against Fargo North in an East Region play-in game.

Sam Herder

Journal Sports Editor

Just like the game itself, the biggest shot in Saturday’s East Region girls basketball play-in matchup with 10th-seeded Fargo North at seventh-seeded Devils Lake wasn’t easy, or necessarily pretty.

Usually when a team hits a halfcourt shot as a buzzer sounds and that team wins 62-61 in overtime, one assumes it was a game-winning shot.

Not in this case.

After a loose ball rolled all the way down to the opposite baseline, Devils Lake had four seconds on the shot clock to get off a shot. Senior Morgan Pedeliski received the inbounds pass, took a couple dribbles and swished her halfcourt heave as the buzzer sounded, giving the Firebirds a 60-55 lead with a minute and change to play in overtime.

The three points turned out to be game-winning in their own right in DL’s 62-61 win to qualify for the East Region Tournament.

“They just left me alone and I thought I’d get in shooting range, but no, it was not shooting range,” Pedeliski said. “I just kind of chucked it with both hands because I’m not strong enough. But I’m happy that I made it.”

The exciting finish made up for a first half with little flow due to whistles on almost every possession. The Firebirds couldn’t find a rhythm offensively. The Spartans, meanwhile, hit their free throws to make it an even game in contrast to their two 20-point losses to DL in the regular season.

“They came ready to play and I think they caught us off guard,” Firebirds head coach Justin Klein said. “They were a totally different team than they were on Feb. 5 when we played them last. But a win is a win. It was an exciting way to do it.”

The Firebirds finally got some momentum and built their lead as the second half wore on. Emily Schafer, who had a game-high 18 points, gave DL a 48-41 lead with seven minutes to play. A minuter later, Taylor Windjue extended DL’s lead to 51-43 with an and-1.

But North responded with a 10-0 run all the way down to one minute, 30 seconds left to take a 53-51 lead.

Schafer quickly tied it at 53-53 with two free throws. Devils Lake then got the ball back with 40.7 seconds left. After draining the shot clock, Windjue, a freshman, hit a floater from the corner to give the Firebirds a 55-53 lead with 10 seconds left.

“It was a good read off the skip,” Klein said. “She took it to the hole like she was supposed to. She stepped up and that’s a big shot.”

But the Spartans were able to go right down the court for a game-tying layup to send it to overtime.

The only point in the first three minutes of overtime was a Mikayla Wallace jumper to give the Firebirds a quick lead. The dagger seemed to come when Pedeliski hit her halfcourt shot when DL’s possession looked to be going nowhere.

“I was probably caught up with the officials trying to get the shot clock to reset,” Klein said. “But when she got the ball inbounds, I thought she would give it up because it’s tough for a girl to shoot a halfcourt shot. It was right on and went in and it was huge.”

North responded again, this time with four straight points to make it 60-59 with 26 seconds left.

Wallace was fouled and calmly sank two free throws with 13.4 seconds on the clock. The Spartans went for a quick two and got a layup, but weren’t able to foul as the clock ran out and DL escaped with the 62-61 win.

“That was awesome,” Pedeliski said. “I am so happy and we’re all ecstatic.”

The Firebirds play at second-seeded Grand Forks Red River in the East Region first round at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The double-elimination tournament then moves to Fargo on March 4-5 to determine the four state qualifiers.

“It’s a good accomplishment, no matter how you do it,” Klein said. “There will be three teams tonight that won’t be there. It gets us in and you just never know. I’ve seen crazy stuff happen there.”

If Saturday’s overtime is any indication, then the tournament might just get crazy again.

Points

Emily Schafer: 18

Mikayla Wallace: 13

Taylor Windjue: 10

Morgan Pedeliski 8

Averi Ziegler: 5

Mattea Vetsch, Kylie Skadsem, Hannah Pesek, Jenna Windjue: 2