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Eric Peterson, Published March 08 2013

West Fargo girls advance to East region title game

FARGO – Cass Thorson visualized she was the only person in the Fargo Civic Center on Friday night.

To technique served to calm the West Fargo junior guard who made eight free throws in a row in the final four minutes.

That clutch shooting helped lift second-seeded West Fargo to a 62-54 victory against Fargo North in the East Region girls basketball semifinals.

“I was thinking about calming down, making me feel like I’m the only person in the gym shooting it and not making it feel like it’s so close,” said Thorson, who ended with a team-high 15 points.

West Fargo (19-2) earned a trip to next week’s North Dakota Class A state tournament with the victory. The Packers play top-seeded Fargo Shanley (19-2) at 6:30 tonight for the region title. The same two teams met for the region crown last season.

“It’s a great feeling,” Thorson said. “We’ve had a great season.”

Third-seeded North (15-6) faces Wahpeton at 3 p.m. today in a state-qualifying game.

“I believe in this team and I believe that they can do this,” North head coach Derek Ouren said.

The Spartans – who trailed by nine points early in the second half – challenged West Fargo in the final five minutes. They took a 47-46 lead after senior Kira Larson scored an inside basket with 4 minutes, 36 seconds remaining. Larson finished with a game-high 25 points and 17 rebounds.

“I was really proud of the kids and how they fought back,” Ouren said. “I think a lot of teams would buckle to West Fargo and kind of let that get out of hand.”

North’s only lead of the game was brief as West Fargo countered with the next five points – a 17-foot jumper from Christine Baltezore and a 3-pointer from Lexi Lennon.

Lennon’s 3-pointer gave the Packers a 51-47 edge with 4:04 remaining.

“Those were huge momentum boosts for us,” said West Fargo head coach Barb Metcalf. “We talk about perseverance. … I was really proud of the kids.”

Thorson sank two foul shots to give West Fargo a 53-49 lead with 3:35 to play. She added six more free throws in the final 2 ½ minutes to seal the victory.

NORTH (15-6): Ross 1 0-0 2, Astrup 1 0-0 3, Bergeron 2 0-0 5, Muellenberg 2 0-0 4, Larson 9 7-7 25, Schmiess 2 2-4 8, Dehne 0 2-4 2, Johnson 2 1-3 5. Totals 19 12-18 54.

WEST FARGO (19-2): Levin 2 2-2 6, Woodbury 0 0-0 0, Baltezore 4 2-3 10, Thorson 1 12-13 15, Langerud 0 0-0 0, Lennon 5 0-2 13, Gustafson 3 5-8 11, Stedman 0 0-0 0, Nelson 3 1-3 7. Totals 18 22-31 62.

Half: WF 33, FN 27. 3-point goals: Bergeron, Muellenberg, Schmiess 2, Thorson, Lennon 3. Total fouls: FN 22, WF 16. Fouled out: Levin, Larson. Rebounds: FN 45 (Larson 17), WF 36 (Thorson 6, Gustafson 6). Turnovers: FN 25, WF 15.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.