Balance attack helps Firebirds get the 65-56 win over Deacons

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Devils Lake's Ben Heilman takes a shot attempt over the defense of Shanley's Braden DeKeyser (15) during the first half of a NDHSAA basketball game Friday, Jan. 31, 2020 in Devils Lake.

One bad half against No. 2 Fargo Davis aside, the Devils Lake Firebirds boys basketball team has been on a roll as of late and Shanley is the most recent team to get caught in the run.

Led by Grant Nelson’s 19 points, the Firebirds had four players to score in double figures as they came away with the 65-56 victory over the Deacons Friday night. It was the Firebirds fourth win in a row, their fifth win in six games and upped their record at the Sports Center to 6-0.

“The fact that we’ve went five out of six in these past two weeks is pretty awesome,” said Firebirds head coach Derek Gathman. “We thought about it, we knew it was going to be tough but to go five out of six with games on the road and a few at home is huge for us.”

Since a home win over Valley City back on Jan. 20, the Firebirds’ lone lost during the stretch came against the Eagles last Tuesday on the road. They have played three games on the road, going 2-1 and 3-0 at home including the win Friday. The Firebirds (9-5, 9-4 Eastern Dakota Conference) jumped out to a 21-10 lead over the Deacons and despite the Deacons (6-6, 5-6) getting to within three after a Emmet Kenney 3 with 12:35 left in the game, consecutive 3-pointers by Nelson and Joshua DeCoteau pushed the Firebirds advantage back up to nine.

Shanley never got closer to seven the rest of the way.

Joey Frelich scored 13 points, Michael Widmer scored 11 points and Ben Heilman finished 10 for the Firebirds.

“Our kids are buying in on defense,” Gathman said about why his squad is playing well during this stretch. “They’re working their tails off, our guards are flying around, Grant is patrolling the paint, getting rebounds, blocking shots and making it tough and our offense is just being patient.

“We’re in the driver seat. If we can take care of business, take care of the games that we can handle, sky’s the limit for us.”

Patrick Bath scored 19 points to lead Shanley.

Chris Harris can be reached at

Shanley at Devils Lake box score

Shanley 26 30 — 56

Devils Lake 35 30 — 65

SHANLEY (6-6, 5-6 EDC)

Bath 19, DeKyser 10, Smith 9, Kenny 7, Mears 7, Srejma 2, Hoffer 2, Bure 0. Totals 22 8-13 56.

DEVILS LAKE (9-5, 9-4)

Nelson 19, Frelich 13, Widmer 11, Heilman 10, Longie 5, Fee 4, DeCoteau 3, Newton 0. Totals 20 18-27 65.