West Fargo Sheyenne boys down rival West Fargo to advance to EDC championship game
Mustangs will play Fargo Davies in a rematch of last two contests held for EDC crown
FARGO — If heading to Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex on Saturday, one will be experiencing a case of déjà vu.
That’s because the Fargo Davies and West Fargo Sheyenne boys basketball teams will square off in the Eastern Dakota Conference championship game for a third consecutive year after the second-seeded Mustangs topped third-seeded West Fargo 75-62 at the SHAC Thursday night.
With the win, Sheyenne improved to 19-4 overall and also advanced to its third straight Class A state tournament to be played at the Bismarck Event Center on March 10-12. The Mustangs will seek their first state championship in program history.
The Packers fell to 17-6 and will take on eighth-seeded Grand Forks Central in a state tournament play-in game scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Saturday at the SHAC. West Fargo took both regular season contests over the Knights, who are 9-15 overall. The Packers are hoping to punch their ticket to the state tournament to defend last year's state title.
The Mustangs were led Thursday night by senior guards Kaleb Larson and Michael Nhial, who combined for 57 points. Larson led the way with 30 while Nhial, the EDC’s third-leading scorer, dropped 27.
“It feels pretty good,” Larson said. “It’s been a pretty anxious week looking forward to all of the games. Knowing that we punched our ticket (to the state tournament) now, it’s a relief, but we’ve still got more work to do. We’ve still got something we want to do here.”
Sheyenne had minimal trouble against its crosstown rival for most of the night. The Packers pulled out to a 4-0 lead early, but when Mustangs senior guard James Hagen hit a wing triple to put his team up 5-4, they never surrendered that lead.
Going into the contest, Sheyenne fielded the best scoring defense and rebounding team in the EDC.
“This team is built on defense and rebounding,” Mustangs head coach Tom Kirchoffner said. “When you get to tournament time, you’ve got to play defense and I love how this team is built.”
Great defense transitions into solid offense, which Kirchoffner got out of Larson and Nhial.
“They were outstanding,” he said. “They showed up. Not only are they great on the offensive end, but they’re great on the defensive end. We rely on those guys a lot, and they’re going to have to lead us (Saturday) and into state as well.”
Larson and Nhial combined for 13 defensive rebounds, two blocks and one steal.
Sheyenne took a 36-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the second half, the Packers found themselves down by as many as 10 points. With just over eight minutes to play, a triple and two-point make from West Fargo senior forward Nick Carlson cut the deficit to five. That’s as close as the Packers would come, however, with the Mustangs scoring the next four points to bump the lead back up to nine and pulling away from there.
Nhial put an exclamation point on the game with a breakaway slam dunk with seven seconds remaining.
Sheyenne finished 20 of 56 shooting for 35%, while West Fargo went 25 of 67 (37%). At the free-throw line, the Mustangs were 30 of 37 to the Packers’ 4 of 12.
The Mustangs also collected 44 rebounds, Nhial leading the way with 12. The Packers picked up 27 boards, led by senior guard Carson Hegerle and senior forward Foday Sheriff with seven each.
Hagen added eight points for the Mustangs, while senior forward Dominic Dosmann and sophomore guard Caleb Deurr had four points apiece. Senior forward Zander Newton chipped in two points.
West Fargo was led by Hegerele who had a 20-point night, followed by Carlson with 16. Senior guard Brett Limke added 12 points, while Sheriff finished with 10. Senior guards Parker Nelson and senior forward Jaden Grefsrud added two points each.
The Mustangs have claimed the last two EDC championships over the top-seeded Eagles (20-2) by scores of 68-48 and 92-55. Tipoff in the third installment is set for 7:45 p.m. Saturday at the SHAC.
“We’ll enjoy this one, then it starts with practice (Friday) and just have the mindset,” Kirchoffner said. "Right now, for us, it’s all about focusing and being mentally tough.”
“Same thing as always,” Larson added. “Work hard in practice, communicate, play our defense, rebound and I think we’ll be set.”
Halftime: West Fargo Sheyenne 36, West Fargo 30
WF: Hegerle 20, Carlson 16, Limke 12, Sheriff 10, Nelson 2, Grefsrud 2.
WFS: Larson 30, Nhial 27, Hagen 8, Dosmann 4, Duerr 4, Newton 2.