Injuries and ailments have kept the West Fargo girls basketball team from being at full strength — until now.
And 100 percent of the Packers proved too much for Bismarck to handle. West Fargo blew out to a 28-point lead in the first half and cruised to a 68-48 win over the Demons in the semifinals of the Class A girls state basketball tournament at the Civic Center Main Arena on Friday.
“This is probably the second time that we’ve had a full lineup,” West Fargo coach Barb Metcalf said. “... We really are playing our best ball at the right time of the year.”
The third-ranked Packers overwhelmed the West Region tournament champion Demons right from the start.
The Packers got hot shooting from Christine Baltezore, Cassidy Thorson and Christine Lennon — all of whom had 11 points in the first half alone — as the lead grew in spurts. The Packers were up 10-2, then 20-4, then 30-9.
“We were just finding each other,” said Lennon, who fell just short of a triple double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. “We don’t put the team on one person’s back. We work as a team, and pass to each other. We know we’re all going to make the shots.”
The Demons seemed shocked at how quickly things began unraveling.
“That couldn’t have been any worse,” Bismarck coach Dallas Hinderer said. “We had some scared kids. We didn’t come out of the locker room at all.”
During one ugly stretch of the first half, the Demons went 10:19 without a field goal, 6:13 of that without a point.
Aside from Naomi Rust, who went 3-for-5, the rest of the Demons combined to shoot 1-for-15 from the floor in the first half thanks to West Fargo’s active defense.
“We were just intense,” Lennon said. “We all knew what we were supposed to do, and got there, and trapped.”
In the meantime, West Fargo was lighting it up, shooting 53.6 percent from the floor en route to a 41-13 halftime lead.
“We didn’t play our game defensively,” Hinderer said. “We struggled with just communicating on the floor. And of course if it doesn’t work on the defensive end, it just really, really showed up on the offensive end. That’s why we ended up with 13 points in the first half.”
The Demons had to be wondering just how bad it would get when the Packers pushed the lead to 47-14 early in the second half.
But Bismarck did finally begin to come around. A 3-pointer from McKayla Feeney and two more treys from McKenzie Kiefer helped the Demons begin to find a groove.
Bismarck began to chip away at the deficit. A 12-2 run midway through the half allowed them to close to within 58-40, but that was as close as the Demons would get.
“I like my girls’ fight at the end of the game, when it could have been really easy just to lay down and give up,” Hinderer said. “They definitely didn’t do that.”
Rust finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Bismarck. Feeney scored nine points.
Thorson — who ended up with a knot on her forehead after knocking heads with teammate Amanda Levin — finished with 13 points, and Baltezore had 11.
The Demons will wrap up their season at 1:30 today in the third-place game against Fargo Shanley.
The Packers will take on Century at 6 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s state title game.
“We just wanted to get back to the championship game like last year,” Lennon said. “We know it’s going to be tough (today), but we’ve just got to play like we did (Friday).”
Century defeated West Fargo 63-60 for the 2012 championship.
“We’ve never talked about meeting Bismarck Century again, because we never Knew who was going to be in the (championship) with us,” Metcalf said. “We’re not really the revenge-seeker type of kids. ... We just want to prove ourselves. We want to prove our program is as good a program as Bismarck Century.”
WEST FARGO (68): Amanda Levin 3-6 0-1 6, Jolene Woodbury 1-5 0-1 2, Christine Baltezore 3-6 2-2 11, Alison Enno 0-0 1-2 1, Ashley Warner 0-0 0, Cassidy Thorson 4-7 3-4 13, Kaitlin Langerud 1-3 0-0 2, Lexi Lennon 6-16 2-2 15, Shelby Gustafson 4-4 1-1 9, Alyssa Stedman 1-2 0-0 2, Cassidy Nelson 2-4 3-4 7. Totals 25-53 12-17 68.
BISMARCK (48): RyLee Meier 0-8 3-4 3, Ashlee Hilzendeger 0-4 1-2 1, Kylee Leingang 1-3 0-2 3, Brittany Brownotter 0-1 0-0 0, Alison Fisher 0-0 0-0 0, Courtney Trolliey 1-2 0-0 2, MacKayla Feeney 3-6 1-2 9, Keisha Engelhardt 1-3 1-2 3, McKenzie Kiefer 2-7 0-0 6, Estee Schmidt 3-3 0-0 8, Jenna Binstock 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Mann 0-0 0-0 0, Naomi Rust 5-10 3-5 13. Totals 16-47 9-17 48.
Halftime: WF 41, B 13.
3-pointers: WF 6 (Baltezore 3, Thorson 2, Lennon 1), B 7 (Feeney, Kiefer 2, Schmidt 2). Rebounds: WF 39 (Lennon 13), B 28 (Rust 7). Fouls: WF 13, B 16. Assists: WF 17 (Lennon 8), B 10 (Rust 4). Turnovers: WF 15, B 17. Blocked shots: WF none, B 5 (Trolliey 2, Schmidt 2). Steals: WF 11 (Levin 3, Thorson 3), B 3 (Feeney 2).
Records: WF 21-3, B 16-8.