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Boys basketball: Posts propel Roughriders

A trio of experienced guards garner most of the attention at Grand Forks Red River. On Thursday, though, it was actually a trio of hard-working posts who sent the Roughriders into the winner's bracket at the East Region boys basketball tournament...

Casey McLachlan
Casey McLachlan (3) of Fargo North drives past a Wahpeton defender in the first half of North's first round win in the EDC tournament in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

A trio of experienced guards garner most of the attention at Grand Forks Red River.

On Thursday, though, it was actually a trio of hard-working posts who sent the Roughriders into the winner's bracket at the East Region boys basketball tournament.

Red River rode the inside play of Matt Lee, Zach Soleim and Alex Hickle during a key stretch in the second half as the Roughriders beat Devils Lake 89-75 in the first round at the Alerus Center.

"(Red River) outworked us," Devils Lake coach David Bitz said. "They got offensive rebounds. . . second and third chances. We definitely didn't play defense well enough to win."

Red River senior guard Luke Schreiner had a terrific performance of his own, finishing with 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the field.

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Yet after Devils Lake took a 60-57 lead with a little more than 12 minutes to play, the Riders went inside to spark a comeback.

Red River answered with a 20-3 run, highlighted by four points apiece from Lee, Hickle and Soleim. The run turned the three-point deficit with 12:12 left in the second half to a 77-63 lead with 7:01 to play.

"(Offensive rebounds) are something we knew we wanted to control," said Lee, who finished with 19 points. "We wanted to play big. There was a fire in us. Coach got us inspired and we went out and got it."

Soleim chipped in with nine points and four rebounds, while Hickle added five points and nine rebounds.

"We put a big emphasis on getting the ball inside," Red River coach Jason Gregory said. "Matt had a really good game. We wanted to get the ball inside rather than settling."

Red River's inside effort was needed to offset the red-hot shooting of Devils Lake guard Taylor Hoffart, who finished with 30 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field, including 4-for-7 shooting from the 3-point line.

"He can shoot," Gregory said. "It seemed like every shot he hit was a tough shot, too. Most of his shots Tyler Thompson was right there with a hand in his face."

Ben Erickstad chipped in 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Firebirds, who shot just 36.4 percent from the field compared to Red River's 51.6 percent.

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Devils Lake battled back after falling behind 15-2 to start.

"We battle all the time," Bitz said. "We didn't quit and kept fighting. Now, we have to put this game behind us. We can only control what is ahead of us."

The Firebirds face Grand Forks Central in a loser-out game at 4:45 p.m. Red River takes on West Fargo in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m.

West Fargo 56, GF Central 38: Early in the second half, West Fargo guard Brady Schwartz's 3-pointer made a thud when it wedged between the backboard and the rim before it slowly rolled into the basket.

The shot served as a reminder that everything was going the Packers' way.

Grant Ringdahl scored a game-high 14 points off the bench to lead West Fargo to a win over Grand Forks Central.

"Grant's been coming on late in the season," West Fargo coach Greg Limke said. "He provided a big boost off the bench. I thought he did a nice job on the boards, as well."

The Packers were rarely threatened as they built leads of 23-12 and 33-18 in the first half.

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West Fargo post Austin Nelson, who finished with 11 points, led the surge with seven first-half points.

The Knights didn't have a single player in double digits. Central guard Brady Johnson had a team-high nine points, followed by post Kyle Lajimodeire with seven points.

Central coach Dan Carlson was pleased with his team's defensive effort and energy, but the Knights simply couldn't produce enough offense.

Central shot 27.3 percent from the field.

"West Fargo is such a good defensive team," Carlson said. "They don't give up many easy ones. And when we did get easy ones, we didn't knock them down."

Fargo Shanley 63, Fargo South 56: Fargo Shanley guard Mike Jones made one shot against Fargo South.

But it was a big one.

Jones' 3-pointer with just more than three minutes left propelled Fargo Shanley to a win over Fargo South.

"That shot was big," Shanley coach Leon Knodel said. "If Mike gets an open look, we don't want him to hesitate."

Jones' shot gave the Deacons their first lead - 54-51 -- since the first half.

Shanley pulled away from there. Jones' trey was followed by a drive by A.J. Jacobson and a three-point play from Josh Rodenbiker. Myles Montplaisir, who finished with a game-high 21 points, tacked on two free throws to give the Deacons a 61-52 lead with 1:19 to play.

"When (Shanley) substituted Jones, we didn't communicate about that well," South coach Mike Hendrickson said. "That's the guys on the floor's fault, our fault as coaches and the bench's fault. We talked all week at practice that Jones does one thing well and that's shoot down threes."

The Bruins, who led most of the game, struggled down the stretch offensively. For the game, South was 22-for-70 for 31.4 percent from the field.

"Of our last nine possessions, we counted two of them that were positive," Hendrickson said.

South guard Matt Wawers led the Bruins with 12 points, followed by Taylor Poss with 10 and Andrew Okland with 10.

"We need more guys than that involved," Hendrickson said. "That's why we were so successful down the stretch (of the regular season)."

Fargo North 73, Wahpeton 49: The East Region's leading scorer -- Fargo North guard Nik Savageau -- scored just four points.

No problem. That simply showed off the Spartans' depth.

North guard Brady Bergeron finished with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field and the No. 1 Spartans survived a brief first-half scare before rolling to the win over No. 8 Wahpeton.

"Like I just told our guys, we need (balance)," North coach Dan Shultis said. "Brady stepped up and had a big game. Teams are going to look to take Nik away and make someone else make some shots. I felt we handled it well."

Savageau finished 2-for-9 from the field, but led the Spartans in rebounding (nine) and assists (four).

Wahpeton came out firing, grabbing early leads of 16-6 and 21-11 behind the shooting of Huskies forward T.J. Kline, who finished with 16 points.

But North regrouped quickly. The Spartans went on a 22-2 run in the first half turning a seven-point deficit into an 11-point lead.

The run was sparked by Bergeron, who scored a pair of baskets in transition late in the decisive stretch.

"Brady was able to penetrate and create off the dribble," Shultis said. "He set Peter Pitia up for some threes and took the pressure off of (Savageau)."

Cody Storm
Fargo North's Cody Storm (right) blocks a shot attempt by Wahpeton's Jeremy Bontjes in the first half of North's win Thursday at the EDC tournament in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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