WEST FARGO — West Fargo Sheyenne hasn’t lost since it dropped its season-opener 79 days ago. The Mustangs have won the past 20-plus games in a row a number of ways, but the formula they used Thursday will be a tough one to beat.
The top-seeded Mustangs exhibited complete dominance from start to finish in a commanding 87-46 win over No. 5 seed Fargo Shanley in an East Region boys basketball semifinal matchup.
“The crowd was loud, our bench was good. It’s a great feeling,” senior big man Jacksen Moni said. “This win was pretty big for us to punch our ticket to state, but we want to be the No. 1 seed, so we’re not done yet.”
The Mustangs (22-1, 20-1 EDC) face third-seeded Fargo Davies for a chance to defend their conference championship at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Sheyenne claimed the East Region crown over Davies last season. Sheyenne extended its win streak to 22 with the win, a program best.
The Mustangs shot 57% from the floor (33-of-58) and went 13-of-17 (76%) from the free-throw line in front of a packed show at Sheyenne High School. Their lead was never in jeopardy.
Six-foot-9 forward Jah’Heem Leake erupted for a game-high 22 points Thursday night, but the Sheyenne senior didn’t even know it.
“Honestly, I thought I had like 12 points,” Leake said. “It just felt good. Everybody did what they needed to do. We came together and got a big win over a good team.”
The big man duo of Leake and 6-foot-10 Moni, a Northern State commit, has helped fuel Sheyenne’s success all season. Thursday was no exception for the forward tandem. Moni had at least eight assists, and fed Leake on a number of them.
“Over the summer, we put in a lot of work together to try and get better for this moment,” said Moni, who put up 13 points. “That’s where it all comes from.”
Sheyenne opened the game with eight unanswered points thanks to buckets from Leake, Moni and Barika Kpeenu. The Mustangs continued their offensive onslaught, grabbing a decisive 27-point lead (41-14) 15 minutes in. The Deacons couldn’t keep up with Sheyenne’s fast tempo and aggressive style of play.
The Mustangs held Shanley scoreless for nearly five minutes. A Brayden DeKeyser jumper opened the scoring for the Deacons, but it’d be another three minutes before they got on the board again. DeKeyser accounted for more than half of Shanley’s first-half 17-point output.
Sheyenne did damage on both ends of the floor Thursday. The Mustangs didn’t let Shanley go on any runs or get more than one bucket at a time until late in the second frame.
“We’ve stepped up on defense lately,” Leake said. “A couple weeks ago, we were slacking a lot on defense. We went back to practice, started over, and came back better than ever.”
Leake, who helped facilitate the early onslaught, nearly registered a double-double in the first half with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Shanley gained some traction to start the second half, but the Mustangs continued its high-scoring ways. A Ben Manson 3-pointer gave Sheyenne an early 30-point lead in the second half, which the Mustangs kept stretching. Manson chipped in 13 points for Sheyenne.
Sheyenne, which had 15 steals Thursday, controlled most of the game. Leake said the Mustangs applied what their coaches have stressed in recent practices — the little things — to cruise to the semifinal win.
“We went back to the little stuff. Defense, helping defense, getting hands up, getting good shots and taking shots we’d normally hit,” Leake said.
Gage Anderson shot from all over to score 16 points for Sheyenne. On the other side, DeKeyser led Shanley with 12 points.
Conner Kraft put up eight for the Deacons, followed by three six-point performances from Tyler Kraft, Jack Pollert and Dylan Erholtz.
The Deacons (10-12, 10-11 EDC) will play No. 6 seed Fargo North in an East Region state qualifier at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the SHAC.
Half: West Fargo Sheyenne 43, Fargo Shanley 17
WFS: Leake 22, Anderson 16, Moni 13, Manson 13, Kpeenu 9, Dosmann 4, Hagen 4, Larson 3, Newton 2, Nhial 1.
FS: DeKeyser 12, C. Kraft 8, T. Craft 6, Pollert 6, Erholtz 6,Wheelock 2, Odden 2, Hakim 2, Paul 2.