Firebirds steal 61-59 win over Spartans

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Devils Lake's Grant Nelson blocks Fargo North's Carter Peratt's shot during the first half of a NDHSAA basketball game Monday, Jan. 27, 2020 in Devils Lake.

 Devils Lake and Fargo North performed a waltz Monday, Jan. 27 from the Sports Center.

One team would lead. Then the other. Then the other. Then the Firebirds stepped on the Spartans toes to end the night.

Michael Widmer’s steal of Carter Peratt at midcourt led to a Grant Nelson dunk as time expired to lift the Firebirds to the 61-59 win, their third victory over the past four games.

“Whew,” was the first word out of Firebirds head coach Derek Gathman’s mouth. “We were hoping it wasn’t going to come to that. We pre-swtiched our defense so we could switch that screen if we needed to and we told Michael to go when it looks like he was about to attack the hoop and Michael just made a play on it.

"That kid is a winner man.”

After the Spartans had rallied from a 13 point second half deficit to take the lead at 59-57 with 1:05 remaining in regulation, Widmer tied the game with a field goal with 23 seconds left. North’s Cayden Rickard, who had lit the Firebirds up with 31 points, took the inbound and dribbled it past half court. However, he gave the ball up to Peratt, who in trying to pass it to Carson Critchley, got it knocked away from Widmer who scrambled for the ball, recovered it, passed it to Heilman who passed it to Nelson who dunked the ball right before the horn.

Nelson led the Firebirds (7-5, 7-4 Eastern Dakota Conference) with 27 points. His two free throws with 2:11 left tied the game at 57 after the Spartans had regained the lead for the first time since the first half on the previous possession. Ben Heilman scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half, five on three consecutive possessions as part of a Firebirds 17-0 run to end the first half.

“You have to defend and run,” Gathman said that he told his team during that run. “If we get out, we’re tough to guard with Grant and Michael and Ben in transition.”

The Spartans led 21-14 with 6:39 left to go in the first half. They didn’t score again until a Rickard basket around the 16 minute mark of the second half.

“We’re in a good spot in the EDC. We’re defending our home court, we’re winning games that we think we can and we have to keep rolling,” said Gathman. After Monday’s outcome, the Firebirds are in sole possession of third place in the conference.

Critchley had 14 points as the only other player in double digit scoring for the Spartans who fell to 3-8 overall, and 3-7 in conference.

Chris Harris can be reached at

Fargo North at Devils Lake box score

Fargo North 21 38 — 59

Devils Lake 31 30 — 61

FARGO NORTH (3-8, 3-7)

Rickard 31, Critchley 14, Peratt 6, Loberg 6, Melby 2, Manley 0, Brosius 0, May 0. Totals 22 7-9 59.

DEVILS LAKE (7-5, 7-4)

Nelson 27, Heilman 13, Widmer 9, Longie 6, Fee 3, DeCoteau 3, Frelich 0, Newton 0, Hanson 0. Totals 23 13-20 61.