No. 1 Firebirds use rally, overtime to survive No. 5 Roughriders 81-77

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Devils Lake Jailyn Martinson (34) tries to put up a shot against Red River's Shelby Frank during the first half of a NDHSAA girls basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020 in Devils Lake.

The will to win is the only thing. — Vince Lombardi

And when that will is strong enough, adversity has no chance even when the odds are in its favor.

Top ranked Devils Lake, for the second straight home game, found itself staring a second half deficit right in the face. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, defeat was even imminent. But yet …

“The kids, especially those starters, they didn’t want to lose,” said Devils Lake head girls basketball coach Justin Klein.

The Firebirds rallied from 11 points down over the final 15 minutes of regulation to force overtime then outscored No. 5 Red River 7-3 in the extra frame to escape with the 81-77 win in girls basketball.

“They did what they needed to do to get it a win. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t real smooth at times but again they are playing on pure drive and determination right now to win games,” Kiein said.

After coming back from 14 down against Shanley this past Friday, the Firebirds (14-0, 13-0 Eastern Dakota Conference) again were looking up at the scoreboard in the second half after the Roughriders went on a 17-0 run that stretched into the second half. The Firebirds didn’t take over the lead again until a Maya Barendt field goal with 2:49 remaining in regulation that gave Devils Lake an advantage for the first time since the first half.

The Firebirds tied the game twice in the final 38 seconds, first after a Jes Mertens basket and then Mertens connected on two free throws with 20.7 seconds left to tie the game at 74. The Firebirds forced a turnover to give them a potential game-winning possession but failed to score, sending the game into overtime.

Mertens, the University of Minnesota-Crookston commit, finished with 27 points and went 11-for-12 from the free-throw line during her 15 point second half and overtime. The Firebirds finished the game going 22-for-29 from the charity stripe, with 24 free throw attempts coming over the second 18 minutes.

“I think they got a little tired, and they tried to gamble a little so that helped,” Klein said about the free throw discrepancy between halves.

Jasmine Sondrol opened the overtime with a basket that gave the Roughriders (9-6, 8-5) the two point lead and an Ella Fosse free throw gave Red River the 77-76 lead with under three minutes to play. The Firebirds closed the game out on a 5-0 run.

Abby Johnson finished with 18 points, Ramsey Brown had 16 points and Jailyn Martinson had 15 points for the Firebirds.

“We can’t spot teams like this. That’s my main concern is that we’re getting behind. We need to get a lead and keep a lead. We can’t do that against a good team,” Klein said.

Brown made free throw with 3:28 left in the first half gave the Firebirds an eight point lead. Then Red River went on a 15-0 run to take a 43-36 advantage into the locker room. Sondrol’s layup 10 seconds into the second half extended the run to 17-0 and upped the Roughriders lead to nine.

Shelby Frank scored 25 points and Sondrol finished with 19 points who has now lost two straight.

Chris Harris can be reached at

No. 5 Red River at No. 1 Devils Lake box score

Red River   43 31 3 — 77

Devils Lake  36 38 7 — 81

RED RIVER (9-6, 8-5)

Frank 25, Sondrol 19, Leach 9, Page 8, Schiller 6, Fosse 5, Azure 5, Lancaster 0, Kemnitz 0. Totals 28 14-24 77.

DEVILS LAKE (14-0, 13-0)

Mertens 27, Johnson 18, Brown 16, Martinson 15, L. Gourd 3, Barendt 2, Krogfoss 0, Dahlen 0. Totals 27 22-29 81.