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Mustangs girls get past Deacons to reach state for first time in program history

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FARGO—Brent Hintz never had any other plans next week. His West Fargo Sheyenne girls basketball team had never been to the Class A state tournament before. The Mustangs had to go through Fargo Shanley, the previous five-time East Region champion, to get there.

Four years ago, the Mustangs didn't win a game in their first varsity season. As head coach, Hintz told his young team then that if they stuck with him and the program, they would be the first team to make the state tournament in the program's history.

Hintz had these plans all along. The No. 5-seeded Mustangs punched their ticket to the program's first ever state tournament with a 54-53 win over No. 2-seeded Shanley on Saturday, March 3, at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex in an East Region tournament state-qualifying game. The Mustangs will be the No. 4 seed out of the East Region in the Class A state tournament starting Thursday, March 8, at the Fargodome while the Deacons won't go to the state tournament for the first time in nine years.

"You have to pay a price for success. You have to pay a price to be great," Hintz said. "We talked about that first year that we needed to pay that price. We took a lot of beatings that first year and remembered every one of them, but we knew it would make us tougher and better."

Kierra Freih scored Sheyenne's first six points including a 3-point play to keep the Mustangs in the game early. Julia Vetter scored 11 of Shanley's first 14 points, nine of those coming from a trio of 3-pointers, within the first few minutes to give Shanley an early lead. Caira Berg, who totaled a team-high 14 points, scored 10 in the first half including a putback to give Shanley a 10-point lead.

The Mustangs responded with an 18-3 run that ended in the second half in which Yasmina Dokara scored nine of her 15 points to take a five-point lead.

A 12-3 run gave the Deacons back the lead until Sheyenne's Maggie Manson, who finished with 15 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1:35 to go. Hadley Huber replied right back with a 3-pointer on the next Shanley possession to give the Deacons back the lead.

Then the Mustangs held the Deacons scoreless for the rest of the game. That included the final possession of the game after Shanley called a timeout, set up a play and put up a shot for the lead.

The shot didn't fall, and the Deacons fell short of the state tournament for the first time since 2009.

"We did a lot of things right, they did things right, got us out of our rhythm and that's what the difference was to pull away in the last seconds," Shanley head coach Steve Jacobson said. "I'm proud of every one of them."

Freih, who finished with a game-high 18 points, said "it was not a nice feeling" losing in a state qualifying game last season as the Mustangs' season ended. In those past seasons with all those losses, Freih said the Mustangs were constantly practicing and getting ready for this moment.

"We want to go in there and make a statement and show the whole state who we are," Freih said. "We're not that 0-22 team you heard of four years ago. We're there to make a statement."

WEST FARGO SHEYENNE (17-7): Freih 6 3-3 18, Dokara 5 5-7 15, Manson 6 0-1 15, Goodiron 1 2-3 4, Dobrinz 0 2-2 2. Totals 18 12-16 54.

FARGO SHANLEY (17-7): Berg 7 0-5 14, Vetter 5 0-0 13, Payne 5 1-4 12, Huber 3 3-4 11, Rivard 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 4-13 53.

Half: SH 27, WFS 22. 3-point goals: Freih 3, Manson 3, Vetter 3, Huber 2, Rivard, Payne. Total fouls: WFS 14, SH 16. Rebounds: WFS 29 (Dokara 9), SH 39 (Payne 15). Assists: WFS 5 (Lewis 4), SH 12 (Berg 3, Huber 3). Turnovers: WFS 5, SH 12.