Grand Forks Red River challenges a top state foe again but can't pull out win against Sheyenne
Sheyenne's Michael Nhial overcomes slow start to finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds
GRAND FORKS — For the second Saturday in a row, the Grand Forks Red River boys basketball team hosted a state-ranked Eastern Dakota Conference opponent.
And for the second week in a row, the Roughriders put a scare into one of the state's top teams but didn't have enough to pull out a win.
West Fargo Sheyenne used a 16-0 run in the second half and 22 points from 6-foot-6 senior Michael Nhial in beating Red River 70-61 on Saturday afternoon in the Red River gym.
"We just came out flat in the first half," Sheyenne coach Tom Kirchoffner said. "I don't know if it was the 12:30 game or what, but we weren't awake yet. We started the game 0-for-7 and Red River was on fire. We just said, hey, it's going to average out so keep shooting and keep doing what you're doing. Guys really picked up the defensive effort and offensively it averaged out."
With a strong early showing from center Carter Byron, the Riders led 14-4 through the game's first nine minutes.
But the Mustangs whittled away at the lead and trailed just 30-27 at halftime.
After a Red River 8-0 run in the second half on the back of six points from Reis Rowekamp, the Mustangs mounted their surge.
Sheyenne went on a 16-0 run, which switched a 42-37 deficit with 11:15 remaining into a 53-42 lead with 7:30 left in the game.
Nhial had a strong second half as he scored 15 of his 22 after half. He finished 7-for-17 from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line. He added a breakaway dunk, three steals and 10 rebounds.
"They were throwing doubles at him and being physical," Kirchoffner said. "He got going with that dunk. Mike's a team player. He knows when they're going to double him, and he can find guys for open shots."
In addition to Nhial, Kaleb Larson added 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting from 3-point range. James Hagen, Dominic Dosmann and Trent Freih each added seven points for Sheyenne.
The Riders, who were playing without ill point guard Brady McQuillan, struggled to handle the ball. Red River finished with 20 turnovers.
"We had a lot of unforced turnovers and those led to easy baskets," Red River coach Kirby Krefting said. "They kind of blew it open with the turnovers."
With McQuillan out, the Riders were playing out of position.
"With Brady out, we had to move (Zach Kraft, Paine Parks or Rowekamp) to point where they're not used to that and we are used to having them at the 2 or 3 to get shots," Krefting said. "With Brady on the ball, we get more looks for those guys."
Kraft finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting. Gunnar Heuchert came off the bench to add 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the 3-point line. Byron, who did most of his damage early in the first half, ended with 11 points. Rowekamp was limited to nine points, while Parks had seven but added five steals.
The Riders end this week in similar fashion to last week. Last week, Red River beat West Fargo on the road 101-84 early in the week but fell to No. 4 Fargo Davies 81-70. This week, Red River picked up a key region win Friday by beating Fargo North 62-61 but couldn't follow it up with a win over the state's No. 5 Mustangs.