When the Valley City High School basketball team left the floor for halftime of its 65-54 loss to West Fargo, things seemed somewhat bleak. The Hi-Liners trailed 38-19, allowing double the points they had scored.
But that didn't stop the team from making it a game, as the Hi-Liners scored 13 points in the first six minutes of the second half and limited the Packers' opportunities to get the game within reach.
"The kids came out and played extremely hard in the second half and played defense and we were able to make it a game," VCHS coach Scott Hurlimann said.
The first half started alright for Valley City as the Hi-Liners got out to a 3-2 lead and took advantage of West Fargo's early shooting struggles, corralling rebounds to keep it close.
Near the midpoint of the half, though, West Fargo found their shooting touch from beyond the arc, getting long-distance shots from Nick Eisenzimmer, Brady Rotert and Travis Schock to turn a 12-10 lead into a 23-12 lead, and eventually a 38-19 lead by the midpoint.
Hurlimann said his team knew they'd have to stop West Fargo's shooters, but it didn't stop the Packers from shooting 48.3 percent from the floor in the first half, including 8-17 shooting from the 3-point line.
"They hit eight 3's in the first half and if they hit shots like that, not many teams in the EDC are going to beat them," Hurlimann said.
The Packers' largest lead was 21 points after a three-point play by the Packers to open the second half, but was followed by the Hi-Liners' comeback.
After the opening points from West Fargo, the Hi-Liners found an offensive rhythm early. The team started with a 3-pointer from Chase Carpenter and scored more points (22) in the first 10 minutes of the second half than they did in the first half (19.)
It started with Carpenter's 3-pointer, then was followed by strong post play from a variety of sources, including Austin Svenningsen, Tayler Lentz and Jarod Nelson, all of whom helped Carpenter grab rebounds for put-backs and work the ball into the post.
Carpenter hit two more 3-pointers at the tail-end of the run to narrow West Fargo's lead to 51-42 with 10 minutes left.
After that, West Fargo tightened up defensively, never letting the game get closer than eight points.
Hurlimann was pleased with Valley City's defense in the second half, which caused the Packers to shoot only 25.9 percent from the floor, connecting on only seven shots.
"They only made seven baskets in the second half," Hurlimann said. "That's extremely good defensively. If we can continue that effort against other teams, we're going to be fine."
The Hi-Liners also didn't allow a contested shot from the floor in the final seven minutes, with West Fargo's final nine points all coming on free throws.
Carpenter led Valley City with 24 points, including four 3-pointers. Lentz had 13 points and Svenningsen had 7.
Schock led West Fargo with 17, and was helped by Eisenzimmer with 13 and Derek Hogenson with 12.
It was Valley City's final game before Christmas. The Hi-Liners will continue their season Dec. 28 at home against Jamestown. The boys will be the second game in a girl-boy double header starting at 5:45 p.m.
Hurlimann said the emphasis until then will be shooting, handling, and dealing with pressure defenses.
"When teams pressure us and press us, we need to be able to handle that and take care of business," he said.