In Wahpeton’s past two meetings with Devils Lake, North Dakota, they were defeated by a combined 57 points. Taking on the undefeated Firebirds in the opening round of the Eastern Dakota Conference Tournament, the Huskies were fearless in Devils Lake’s gym.
Wahpeton put together a 14-1 run from the end of the first half into the beginning of the second half to make it a five-point game, but the hosts fought back and came through for a 69-52 victory on Tuesday, March 3.
“We had some opportunities and just weren’t able to finish on those. There are good things happening on the floor, but you just can’t have some of those little things happen against the No. 1 team in the state,” Wahpeton coach Brian Watson said.
Free throws played a major factor in keeping the game tight. Wahp went 21-28 from the stripe with Jordyn Kahler and Lidia Motl each knocking down all six of their respective attempts.
“That’s part of our game. We want to get to the free-throw line and that’s something you need to do against Devils Lake,” Watson said. “They’re aggressive on defense, do a lot of pushing and shoving and they really don’t care how much they foul you. You’ve just got to be able to weather the storm and be strong with the ball. We were able to do that in the second half and make some free throws.”
Devils Lake took a 37-23 lead into halftime. Their transition offense was giving WHS fits, but the Huskies slowed it down with a half-court trap in the second half to limit the Firebirds’ easy buckets.
“Once we were able to contain that and get them in a half-court game, that played a little bit more in our favor,” Watson said. “We just gave them too much of a cushion in the first half. If we don’t give up some of those easy baskets that they got, it’s a totally different game.”
Wahpeton strung together four stops in a row later in the half, but offensive woes kept them from getting back in reach of the lead. The Huskies were only outscored 32-29 in the second half.
Kahler poured in 13 of her game-high 19 points in the second period. Motl followed with 10 and McKenna Koolmo chipped in with nine. The pair of freshmen weren’t even on varsity when the Huskies first faced off with the Firebirds and were still getting their feet wet in their second meeting.
“That’s kind of what we need. We need that kind of an effort out of those guys,” Watson said. “They’ve been able to step right in and do some good things for us.”
Wahpeton (6-17) takes on West Fargo in a win-or-go-home battle in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. Friday, March 6. If the Huskies can topple the Packers, they’ll be one win away from the state tournament.
“We didn’t win the game tonight, but I was happy with the way that we played and the effort,” Watson said. “I feel like the game tonight, even though we lost, is going to help us here on Friday when we play West Fargo.”
Wahpeton Stat Leaders
Jordyn Kahler- 19
Lidia Motl- 10
McKenna Koolmo- 9
Cassie DeVillers- 9
Haley Kjar- 3
Sam Pithey- 2
Aiyana Allard- 2
Emily DeVries- 2