No. 1 Firebirds comeback for 3rd straight time at home to beat Packers

Chris Harris, DLJ Sports
Devils Lake's Jailyn Martinson cuts through the West Fargo defense near the basket during the first half of a NDHSAA girls basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 in Devils Lake.

For Devils Lake, home is where you rally — or at least that’s been the case the past two weeks.

For the third straight time from the Sports Center, the top-ranked girls basketball team in Class A, saw themselves sputter out of the gates and trail during the final 18 minutes of the game. And like the previous two games, the Firebirds walked off the floor with a dub.

Jes Mertens scored 26 points, Jailyn Martinson and Ramsey Brown scored 18 and 16 points respectively and the Firebirds defeated West Fargo 81-72 Tuesday, Feb. 11. The Firebirds remain the lone Class A girls team unblemished.

“I knew this was going to be a game like this,” Firebirds head coach Justin Klein began. “I was a little disappointed with probably with myself with the way the press worked right away. We gave up too many layups but we may some adjustments at half.”

The Packers (8-8, 8-7 Eastern Dakota Conference) missed their first nine shots and didn’t score until a Lauren Van Winkle field goal five minutes into the game. The Packers trailed at that point 13-4 but slowly crept back into it, eventually taking over the 25-24 lead after two free throws by McKenna Becher with 5:22 left until halftime.

The Packers led by seven at halftime and bumped it up to eight early in the second half but the Firebirds made their run almost on cue.

Brown’s two free throws with 10:49 left in regulation tied the contest at 53 and trailing by three after a basket and by Jessica Walsvik and a free throw by Miriley Simon on consecutive possessions, Mertens connected on one of her two 3-pointers for the game that tied the at 56. Abby Johnson’s two free throws on the Firebirds ensuing possession gave Devils Lake the lead that it held on to for the rest of the game.

“Their size gave us trouble as everyone has given us trouble with their size but in the second half we did a better job moving the ball and then we wore them down at the end. It became a free throw game,” Klein said.

Walsvik and Simon, who are both 6-footers, combined to scored 29 points for the Packers. The two teams combined to shoot 60 free throws, with the Firebirds attempting 17 in the second half, making 13.

Becker led all scorers with 28 points.

The Firebirds continue to sit atop of the EDC at 15-0, 16-0 overall.

Chris Harris can be reached at

West Fargo at Devils Lake box score

West Fargo 43 29 — 72

Devils Lake 36 45 — 81

WEST FARGO (8-8, 8-7 EDC)

Becher 28, Walsvik 17, Simon 12, Diemert 6, Pfau 5, Van Winkle 2, Williams 2, Giesen 0. Totals 25 20-27 72.

DEVILS LAKE (16-0, 15-0)

Mertens 26, Martinson 18, Brown 16, Dahlen 8, Johnson 6, Swenson 3, L. Gourd 2, Barendt 2, Krogfoss 0. Totals 27 24-33 81.