FARGO-Minutes into Tuesday's Eastern Dakota Conference boys basketball matchup, No. 4-ranked West Fargo Sheyenne and Fargo Shanley made it known the game was going to be a battle.
It took less than three minutes for Shanley's Jake Kava to swat away a shot from Sheyenne's Zach Westphal. Kava made it known to Westphal that nothing was coming easy, as the two went nose-to-nose with some words and a smile. Westphal went right at Kava the very next play after getting blocked and hit a layup, and was sure to let Kava know about it.
Westphal got the last laugh, opening overtime with a three-point play to start a run en route to an 86-80 win.
"It was just some friendly trash talking," Westphal said with a smile. "It was fun. It's always fun coming into a place like this. Us against them is always fun."
With 27.9 seconds left in regulation and trailing by two, the Mustangs (15-2) were looking for a Westphal 3-pointer to win. He was covered by Shanley defenders, so Christian Kuntz took the ball baseline and hit layup with 5.2 seconds remaining to tie the game. Shanley's Talon Hoffer missed a jumper at the buzzer and the game went to overtime.
"We were resilient tonight," Kuntz said. "We brought the energy in the second half. We're just a tough group of a guys and that's what we love."
Overtime was all Sheyenne, as the Mustangs opened with a 10-0 run and cruised, outside of a few hiccups down the stretch that made the score seem closer than it actually was.
"We're a resilient group. We got a lot of grit," Sheyenne coach Tom Kirchoffner said. "This is great to be in these situations because that's going to prepare us for tournament time."
Less than seven minutes into the game, Kava got cracked in the mouth with someone's shoulder or elbow and he had to switch jerseys because his had blood on it.
There was no blood the rest of the half, but that doesn't mean the physicality went away. The biggest lead in the first half was four, which both teams had at one point. Sheyenne was up 34-30, but the Deacons closed the first half on an 8-1 run. Kava had 14 points in the first half.
Kava got into foul trouble in the second half, picking up his fourth with 14 minutes, 8 seconds remaining. Sheyenne promptly answered with a 7-0 run to take a 47-46 lead. Behind Cam Saville and the Shanley bench, the Deacons held their own, taking a 62-55 lead with five minutes remaining.
Sheyenne didn't go away, so Shanley brought Kava back with 3:25 left in regulation. On his first offensive possession, he drove to the net, forced a foul and hit both free throws to push the Shanley lead to 64-61. He fouled out on the next Sheyenne possession with 2:48 remaining in regulation.
"We got two teams at the top of the standings just going at it," said Kuntz, who finished with 15 points. "Two teams that love being out here and competing. That's the best we can do."
The Deacons missed three of their final free throws in regulation and Sheyenne made them pay.
"We had to string stops together and come together as a team," said Westphal, who finished with 22 points. "We had to come out with intensity. It was kind of new life for us."
Shanley was gassed and with two starters fouled out by the time overtime started Mustangs ran away with their eighth straight win.
"We learned that we can fight, we can battle," Shanley coach Andrew Burns said. "We learned we can compete against a good team that brings energy every night. We know we can do the same."
Halftime: Fargo Shanley 38, West Fargo Sheyenne 35
WFS: Westphal 22, Kuntz 15, Terhark 9, Hajric 8, Ballestad 3, Charles 13, Dubois 5, Berg 11.
FS: Saville 23, Thimjon 7, Ja. Kava 19, Mehlisch 2, Erie 6, Hoffer 14, Jo. Kava 9, Bares 3.