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Eric Peterson, Published March 09 2012

West Fargo girls advance to ND Class A title game

FARGO – The West Fargo Packers have made it back to championship night after more than a decade absence.

The Packers exploded for the first 10 points in the second half to build a cushion that Bismarck was never able to overcome.

Senior Erin Krogh added a critical 3-pointer in the final minutes to help No. 1-ranked West Fargo earn a 65-56 victory in the North Dakota Class A state girls basketball semifinals.

“It’s amazing,” said Krogh, who finished with 14 points and five rebounds.

“This was our goal all year. Now we’re here and we just want to finish it.”

The Packers (23-1) play Bismarck Century at 6 p.m. today for the championship. West Fargo is playing in its first state championship game since 1998, when the Packers earned their last state crown.

“We’re excited,” said Packers junior guard Lexi Lennon, who scored a team-high 20 points. “We’ve worked for this all year. We worked every day of practice and we pushed each other. We’ve been waiting for this.”

Lennon, Cassidy Thorson, Christine Baltezore and Krogh sparked West Fargo’s quick start in the second half. Lennon scored on a drive to the basket before Thorson and Baltezore scored back-to-back three-point plays.

Krogh capped the run with a jump shot from the left wing that gave the Packers a 41-30 lead with 15 minutes, 7 seconds to play in the second half.

“It was very important. We’re a very quick team, and we like to get off to fast starts,” Krogh said. “So it’s really helpful when we can push the ball and get into our game fast.”

Bismarck cut the West Fargo lead to 58-54 after sophomore MacKayla Feeney sank a foul shot with 2:38 remaining.

Moments later, Krogh delivered a clutch shot. The 5-foot-11 forward sank a 3-pointer that gave the Packers a 61-54 lead with 2:04 remaining.

“It hurt us a little bit, and we knew we had to keep fighting through it,” said Bismarck guard Rylee Meier. “We had some momentum and it was slowly dying.”

The Packers made 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

“We played with a lot of heart,” said Krogh, who fouled out with 1:34 remaining. “We played our game. We pushed the ball and played how we wanted to play.”

Baltezore and Lennon scored 10 points in the first half to help the Packers take at 31-30 lead into halftime. West Fargo took an early 9-1 lead after Lennon scored on a drive with 14:07 remaining in the opening half.

The Demons bounced back from that slow start, however. They took a 25-21 lead after sophomore Keisha Engelhardt scored a 3-point play with 1:55 to play in the opening half. Those points capped a 7-0 Bismarck run.

Engelhardt had 15 points in the first half and ended with a game-high 26 points.

Lennon and Baltezore countered with back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Packers back into the lead.

Baltezore gave West Fargo a 31-28 lead after she sank a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining until halftime.

“We wanted it really bad,” Krogh said. “We stuck to our game plan. They are a really good team.”

WEST FARGO (23-1): Lennon 7 4-5 20, E. Krogh 5 3-5 14, Baltezore 5 1-1 13, Thorson 1 4-8 6, Levin 1 3-5 5, Hummel 2 1-2 5, A. Krogh 1 0-0 2. Totals 22-70 16-26 65.

BISMARCK (16-8): Englehardt 8 10-14 26, Trolliey 3 2-2 8, Meier 1 4-6 6, Rust 2 1-2 5, Feeney 1 2-4 5, Kiefer 2 0-0 4, Haugen 0 2-2 2. Totals 17-55 21-30 56.

Halftime: WF 31, B 30

3-pointers: Lennon 2, Krogh, Baltezore 2, Feeney. Total Fouls: WF 26, B 25. Fouled out: Baltezore, E. Krogh, Rust, Hilzendeger. Technical foul: Meier. Rebounds: WF 35 (Thorson 8), B 47 (Rust 13). Assists: WF 12 (Lennon, Thorson 3), B 4 (four with four). Turnovers: WF 17, B 27.

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

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

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