Firebirds amp up the defense in second half to crush Knights

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Devils Lake's Ramsey Brown is bumped by Grand Fork Central's Lauren Hillman as she attempts a layup during the first half of a NDHSAA girls basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 in Devils Lake.

Fresh off a Lake Region Invitational all-tournament selection, Devils Lake’s Avery Swenson connected on a 3-pointer as time expired to end the first half. That shot proved to be the dagger.

The Firebirds took over the lead from Grand Forks Central due to Swenson’s 3 and just kept pushing the Knights farther and farther back in their rearview as the No. 3 Firebirds took apart the Knights in the second half for the 70-34 season opening win Tuesday, Dec. 10 from the Sports Center.

“It was a tale of two halves and the second half is probably what I expected for us to do whereas the first half wasn’t what I expected for us to do,” said Firebirds head coach Justin Klein.

It took the Knights eight minutes to obtain the lead over the reigning East Region champions when Maddie Myrold put the Knights up 11-10. Her basket on the Knights next possession gave Central the three point advantage. The Knights led by five with a little over five minutes remaining in the first half but Abby Johnson’s 3-point play with 45.3 seconds left cut the deficit to two.

As the first half clock ticked away, Swenson got the ball at the right wing and pulled up, making the 3 as the buzzer sounded. It was the first lead for the Firebirds (1-0, 1-0 Eastern Dakota Conference) since 10:08 of the half.

The Firebirds shot a paltry 7 of 37 in the first half.

“We talked about defensive positioning and we were trying to kinda find ourselves because that wasn’t the defense that we worked on in practice. I think it was more of a wake up call. … I think a couple of kids were pressing a little bit. Trying to do too much,” Klein said.

Once the Firebirds returned to the floor, it became reminiscent of last season. The Firebirds held the Knights to just 10 points in the second half, forcing more turnovers (19) than shots attempted (16).

Ramsey Brown led the Firebirds with 14 points. Abby Johnson and Jes Mertens had 12 and 11 points respectively.

“We kind of found ourselves a little bit. I think it was a wake up call that you have to be ready to play,” said Klein. 

Myrold finished with 19 points, all but six coming in the first half, to lead the Knights who fell to 0-2 for the season.

Grand Forks Central at Devils Lake box score

G. F. Central 24 10 — 34

Devils Lake    25 45 — 70

GRAND FORKS CENTRAL (0-2, 0-1)

Myrold 19, H. Gereau 6, Hillman 2, A. Gereau 2, Roehl 2, Peck 2, Foltz 1, Baker 0, Stangl 0, Aure 0. Totals 11 8-15 34.

DEVILS LAKE (1-0, 1-0)

Brown 14, Johnson 12, Mertens 11, Barendt 9, Dahlen 7, L. Gourd 6, Martinson 6, Swenson 5, Krogfoss 0, M. Gourd 0. Totals 26 14-22 70.

Chris Harris can be reached at charris@devilslakejournal.com.