Front Row to the Fantastic
It was 7:15, the first of two games between West Fargo High & Fargo Davies was nearly over. From beginning to end, one team had maintained the higher score. At that time though I began to think that I was learning more about the team on the wrong side of the scoreboard than about the team that was ahead. More to the point, I was actually more impressed by the team that wasn't winning. It seems preposterous to say or even think but it happened nonetheless. All of which preceded one of the best high school games I've ever seen.
One quarter of play into the night and West Fargo had built up to a 15 point lead over Davies. The lion share of the lead came during a six minute stretch in which they 14 to only four from the Eagles. From there the outcome seemed like a foregone conclusion. Over the remaining seven minutes of the half, Davies returned the favor. A 20 to six run left with a single point deficit in the locker room.
Out of the break it was still the Bulls game to win or lose and they did everything necessary to keep their lead. They went on yet another one sided run to start the half. Davies scored eight while West Fargo tallied 17. The visitors from South Fargo found the gumption to once again trim down the lead. It never got as close as close as one again but the four point difference gave their bench and the maroon clad fans reason for optimism. From there it was a shot for shot affair that finished with free throws, even as the home team continued to make them.
West Fargo 66, Davies 56
West Fargo got a game high 23 from McKenna Becher with key contributions from Mariah Schatz, 13 points & 13 rebounds, and Chloe Pfau with 12 points. On the visitors side it was a bakers dozen trio as Alyssa Paper scored 13 points while Taylor Fey & Ava Wild added 12 a piece.
If I were to pin down one similarity between the girl's and boy's games it would be that the halftime scores were separated by a single point. How the guys got there, and what happened after is a totally different story. My immediate reaction after the game was that it may have been the second best game I've seen in person. Figuring out how to convey that in any number of words is a tall task, so bear with me as I try.
Davies and West Fargo traded leads in the first half. Every time it seemed like either one may have had a chance to get some breathing room, the other team would score a flurry of points of their one to crush that chance. As time wound down it seemed like the greenies would have the advantage over the break but a three point shot at the buzzer was the most fitting finish to that 18 minutes. So the game sat at one and it was the Eagles who lead the way.
West Fargo didn't let that stand any longer than the intermission forced it to as they stormed out of the break with a seven to three spurt over the first two minutes of the game. Then it was Davies turn to not lay down. They battled back and knotted it at 62 halfway through. The see-saw on the scoreboard continued from there. Each team getting big shot after big shot in a game that seemed destined to either be an early taste of March finery or to go into bonus time.
With a minute and half left in the game it was 75-75 and the thoughts of either overtime or a buzzer beater to win grew all the larger. But then, just like that, they faded away. West Fargo, who had collectively struggled to hit their free throws all game, made just enough to put the pressure on Davies to make another big shot with time winding down. The last good look that the Eagles would have came as Cole Hage stepped up on the left corner. The shot looked good, and with as open as he was it should have been as close as it was, if not closer. Off the mark and out of time, Davies reminded me that it wasn't March just yet.
It had all the makings of a playoff game. Each school's team and fans represented in ways that the other deserved. With the win, West Fargo created a log jam at the top of the East between themselves, their crosstown rivals and the opponents of the day. If their ends up being a third round, it'll be a can't miss contest! If West Fargo can manage to play up to their opponents for the rest of the season they could very well hoist the trophy! That's how significant this was for them. It didn't earn them the championship but it was their way to firmly planting a flag in the EDC's power structure. It was a fantastic game, the kind of contest that I consider to be a privilege to be able to see, photograph & write about. So like I said, if there is a round three, do not miss it!
West Fargo 80, Davies 77
Davies was lead by 21 from Braeton Motschenbacher & 17 from Cole Hage with 16 from Jaden Klabo. For West Fargo Braxton Bruer matched with 21 of his own while Luke Lennon & Carson Hegerle added 14 and Carter Birrenkott chipped in 13.
Players of the Games
Photos of the Games