FARGO — The Fargo Shanley girls basketball team’s motto all season has been “Whatever it takes.” And before the North Dakota Class A girls state basketball tournament, the Deacons made an addendum to their motto: “finish.”
“Before the tournament, the girls came in and said, ‘finish,’” Shanley coach Steve Jacobson said. “I put that on the board. I wrote ‘Whatever it takes’ and then in big letters underneath it, I wrote ‘finish.’ We play four minutes at a time. If we can win those four minutes, 90% of the time we’ll win any game.”
Shanley hoped for the shot to live up to its new motto and finish the season with a state championship.. Instead, the North Dakota High School Activities Association announced Friday afternoon, March 13, that all remaining winter postseason state tournaments are suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Deacons defeated Mandan 73-55 in the state semifinals on Friday at the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
“This season our whole team — every practice, every game — had the excitement, had the energy,” Shanley senior Reile Payne said. “We came together as a family and we’re able to prove ourselves because everyone thought we were young and inexperienced. But we proved we belong and we’re good enough.”
Shanley jumped out to an 11-2 lead early and every time the Braves tried to cut into that lead, the Deacons had the answer. The closest Mandan got after that game-opening run was a seven-point deficit on three occasions. Each time, Payne responded — including with a buzzer-beater to send the Deacons into halftime with a 10-point lead at 34-24.
“I shot it and didn’t think it was going to go in,” Payne said. “I didn’t think my feet were set, so I kind of just chucked it because I knew the time was running out. And to have it go in was kind of like, ‘Alright, we’ve got this. The momentum is in our favor. Let’s use that.’”
Mandan made it 38-31 early in the second half after a Lakyn Darras inside bucket. Payne came back and drained a 3-pointer to make it a 10-point game.
Mandan's Maria Moore made a 3-pointer with seven minutes to go to make it 56-49, but Payne was there with the answer again. Emily Srejma swatted two straight shot attempts on the next Braves possession and the Deacons sprinted across the finish line from there.
“We said at halftime that they’re going to go on their runs,” Payne said. “But we all took it on our shoulders just to stop them and keep them as low as we possibly could. That showed how we had each other’s backs. We slowed the game down and controlled the tempo.”
Payne led the Deacons with 27 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals. She scored 17 points in the first half. Huber scored 20 points and got to the line repeatedly, shooting 13-for-15 from the foul stripe.
Darras gave Shanley trouble down low, leading the Braves with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
“We had to stop (Darras) because she was killing us,” Jacobson said. “Lakyn is an outstanding basketball player. But we found a way to shut her down when we needed to in the last seven minutes.”
Mandan: Darras 27, Moore 8, Gustavsson 7, Clarke 5, Harris 5, Toman 2, Ramsey 1.
Shanley: Payne 27, Huber 20, Hakim 10, Manuel 5, Srejma 5, Hoedl 3, Dabbert 3.
Half: Shanley 34, Mandan 24