Firebirds get defensive in 68-56 win over Knights

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Devils Lake's Braden Fee (0) goes up for the layup attempt in a NDHSAA basketball game against Grand Forks Central, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 in Devils Lake.

Devils Lake built a 15 point halftime lead over Grand Forks Central, thanks in large part to North Dakota State University signee Grant Nelson, and was able to keep Central at bay in the second half for the 68-56 win over the Knights Tuesday, Dec. 10.

“I thought our defense was pretty good in the first half,” said Firebirds head coach Derek Gathman. “I was really happy with how we guarded guys and moved our feet. In the second half I think we got a little tired and a little lazy a little bit but ultimately I think we played pretty dang hard.”

The Firebirds (1-1, 1-0 Eastern Dakota Conference) controlled the first half, holding the Knights to 6 of 22 shooting over the first 18 minutes. And with the lead 10, Nelson closed the half with a personal 5-0 run that upped the Firebirds advantage to 15 going into the locker room. Nelson, who finished with a game high 32 points, scored 18 of Devils Lake’s 33 first half points.

Joshua Decoteau scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half.

“Offensively, I thought if we could be a little more patient we could probably get easier buckets but some guys hit shots and Grant obviously got his but I think we could do a better job of finding that open guy earlier,” Gathman said.

The Knights (0-2, 0-1) pulled to within 10 twice in the second half, once with 4 minutes, 13 seconds left on the clock after a 3-pointer by Ben Hoverson and again with 2:54 remaining after two free throws by Mason Love but couldn’t make enough baskets to get any closer. The Knights made three of their last 11 shots and finished 17 of 50 from the floor. Alex Barbot led the Knights with 13 points.

Hoverson finished with 10 points.

Both Ben Heilman and Michael Widmer scored eight points apiece for the Firebirds who lost their season opener on this past Saturday against third ranked Minot by 32. The Firebirds allowed the Magicians to shoot nearly 50 percent for the field.

“It’s a good win. It’s good for the guys to see the ball go into the hoop a little more, getting stops and I think Central did a good job against us. They battled, I just thought our defense carried us to that win,” Gathman said.

Grand Forks Central at Devils Lake box score

G. F. Central 18 38 — 56

Devils Lake    33 35 — 68


Barbot 13, Hoverson 10, Love 9, Tatum 9, Gravseth 7, Fultz 4, Brown 4, Battles 0. Totals 17 18-23 56.

DEVILS LAKE (1-1, 1-0)

Nelson 32, Decoteau 13, Heilman 8, Widmer 8, Frelich 4, Fee 2, Hofstad 1, Longie 0, Hanson 0. Totals 20 22-33 68.

Chris Harris can be reached at