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Eric Peterson, Published March 03 2012

West Fargo wins East Region girls basketball championship

FARGO – West Fargo ended a more-than-a-decade-long region tournament title drought Saturday night at the Bison Sports Arena.

Lexi Lennon scored a game-high 21 points to help lead the Packers to a 67-57 victory against Fargo Shanley for the East Region girls basketball championship.

West Fargo hadn’t won the region tournament since 1998 when girls basketball was played in the fall.

“It’s a pretty special group of girls,” said Packers head coach Barb Metcalf. “All year long they’ve been so business-like. They come to practice with a business attitude.”

The Packers (21-1) extended their winning streak to 16 games and earned the East No. 1 seed for the North Dakota Class A state tournament, which starts Thursday in Fargo.

“This means a lot because we’ve been working for it like all year,” said Lennon, a 5-foot-8 junior guard. “Every day in practice we go out and push it and every game we give it all we have. We did for Hannah, too. Not being able to play, we did it for her.”

Lennon was referring to West Fargo senior guard Hannah Schnepf, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury. Schnepf injured her knee in Thursday’s first round.

Shanley (18-4) trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half before it mounted a furious rally. The Deacons cut the West Fargo lead to five points at one point in the final three minutes of the second half.

“It’s hard to get over the hump on that because you have exerted so much energy,” Shanley head coach Tim Jacobson said. “You can’t allow yourself to get in that hole right away.”

The Packers took control by scoring 16 of the first 20 points in the second half. Lennon scored eight points during that game-changing stretch, including a 3-pointer and a 3-point play. Sophomore guard Amanda Levin hit a baseline jumper that gave West Fargo a 43-22 lead with 13 minutes, 58 seconds in the second half. Moments later, the Packers went ahead 46-24 after senior forward Erin Krogh hit a 3-pointer.

“I thought West Fargo played really well,” Jacobson said. “They came out and hit their shots. They played like a veteran team.”

The Deacons, however, didn’t fade. They used runs of 15-2, 10-4 and 7-0 to claw back into the game. Shanley cut the West Fargo lead to 59-54 after junior forward Kelly Weir scored a 3-point play with 2:16 remaining.

“We just had to keep calm and just keep playing how we were,” Lennon said.

The Packers answered with the next five points. Lennon started that string of points with a drive that ended with short jumper off the left side of the lane. That small scoring burst proved to be enough to slow the Shanley rally.

“I think this was a very good game with the fact that we were able to fight our way back into it, which puts us in a nice situation when we get to the (state) tournament,” Jacobson said.

SHANLEY (18-4): R. Weir 8 0-1 17, Anderson 4 8-12 16, Jacobson 1 7-8 10, K. Weir 3 1-1 7, Brenner 2 0-0 4, Fraase 1 1-1 3, Hanson 0 0-0 0, Saville 0 0-0 0, Greving 0 0-0 0. Totals 19-55 17-23 57.

WEST FARGO (21-1): Lennon 6 7-9 21, Baltezore 3 2-3 10, Thorson 3 4-7 10, Hummel 3 1-1 7, A. Krogh 2 2-2 6, Levin 2 2-3 6, E. Krogh 1 2-2 5, Gooding 0 2-2 2, Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 22-29 67.

Half: WF 27, SH 18. 3-point goals: R. Weir, Jacobson, Lennon 2, Baltezore 2, E. Krogh. Total fouls: SH 21, WF 17. Fouled out: E. Krogh, Anderson, R. Weir, Brenner. Rebounds: SH 27 (Anderson 10), WF 22 (Lennon 7). Assists: SH 3 (three players with 1), WF 9 (Thorson 4). Turnovers: SH 22, WF 20.

All-Eastern Dakota Conference team

Sarah Schafer, Devils Lake; Jasmine Moffett, Fargo Davies; Anna Diederich, Fargo South; Katelyn Olson, Grand Forks Central; Taylor Hammer, Grand Forks Central; Allyson Suhr, Valley City; Tawny Irwin, Wahpeton; Lachelle Bumgarner, Wahpeton; Jessica Anderson, Fargo Shanley; Kira Larson, Fargo North; Ellie Ripplinger, Grand Forks Red River; Ashley Knecht, Grand Forks Red River; Rachel Weir, Fargo Shanley; Erin Krogh, West Fargo; Lexi Lennon, West Fargo.

EDC senior of the year

Rachel Weir, Shanley

EDC coach of the year

Kent Ripplinger, Red River

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com