WEST FARGO — Devils Lake and West Fargo Sheyenne last saw each other 10 months ago, when the Firebirds stripped the Mustangs of their chance at a state title game appearance, defeating Sheyenne by 23 points in the North Dakota Class A state girls basketball semifinals.
It was a similar story Tuesday night, as the undefeated Firebirds topped the Mustangs 74-63. With the win, Devils Lake, which was ranked No. 2 in the latest Class A girls basketball poll, remains the lone unbeaten team in the Eastern Dakota Conference.
"You don't want anybody to take that from you now, and I think that's kind of the mentality of the kids," Devils Lake head coach Justin Klein said of his team's 7-0 status.
Klein knew the Mustangs (4-5, 4-4 EDC) were going to come out hot, fueled by the outcome of the last time the EDC contenders faced each other.
"I said they were going to be ready for us and they want to beat us. I'm sure in the back of coach Hintz's head, the last time he faced us was in that game," Klein said.
Tuesday was different, though.
"They were ready to go, they came ready," Klein said of the Mustangs.
It wasn't the outcome Sheyenne head coach Brent Hintz wanted, but he was proud of his team's performance.
"They're good, and they're trying to win. They made a few more plays than we did down the stretch, but we told ourselves we want to give ourselves a chance to win," Hintz said. "It's the first time a lot of those kids have gotten to play against Devils Lake and the pace that they play at. You can try to simulate it all you want, but you have to just see it. That's something I felt like we adjusted better to."
The Mustangs had some foul trouble in the first half. A key player in Sheyenne's lineup, Jadyn Feist, picked up her second foul with 12 minutes to go in the first half. Hintz made the decision to have her sit out the remainder of the half.
"For her to play the way we need her to play, I didn't want her to have to start the second half with three fouls," Hintz said. "It just limits her aggressiveness. Second half we did a better job at being able to keep those kids on the floor and it made a huge difference."
Feist made her presence known in the second half, scoring all of her game-high 22 points.
"I sat for 12 minutes, and I said, 'OK, I need to be safe with what I do with my body, and I need to work hard in order to get back what I could've put in the first half,'" Feist said.
Brittani Huseth put up a quick five unanswered points for the Mustangs early in the game.
Jailyn Martinson drew a foul to get the Firebirds on the board after a few scoreless minutes on a pair of free throws. But just like that, a Paige Johnson layup gave the Mustangs a game-high, six-point lead.
Abby Johnson netted the first field goal for the Firebirds after Devils Lake went almost six minutes without scoring.
An 18-2 run surged the Firebirds ahead after struggling to capitalize in the first half of the frame. Johnson chipped in nine points for Devils Lake to help the team grab a 30-20 halftime lead.
A Joely Goodiron 3-pointer got the Mustangs on the board in the first 30 seconds.
After only playing six minutes in the first half, Feist came out hot after halftime and scored a quick four points for Sheyenne.
Down by six, Paige Johnson cut the lead after she scored a basket from a Huseth half-court pass. But Devils Lake capitalized on Sheyenne turnovers and ran away on another seven-point spurt.
With 6 minutes, 44 seconds to go in the back-and-forth second half, Feist launched a nine-point run to bring her team within four points.
The Mustangs called a timeout with 24 seconds remaining, with hope still lingering as they were down by nine. But Martinson drew a foul for the Firebirds and hit two free throws in the final seconds.
Half: Devils Lake 30, Sheyenne 20
DL: Barendt 19, Johnson 15, Martinson 15, Mertens 14, Brown 8, Gourd 3.
WFS: Feist 22, Johnson 14, Huseth 8, Sanders 7, Breidenbach 5, Goodiron 3, Manson 2, Nelson 2.