Defense lifts Devils Lake girls to first-round win

BISMARCK – Devils Lake’s offense was good but its defense was better Thursday at the North Dakota Class A girls state basketball tournament.

The Firebirds forced 33 turnovers leading to 32 points and cruised to a 73-50 win over Williston in a first-round game at the Bismarck Event Center.

Ramsey Brown led the offense with 18 points and seven offensive rebounds, while Jes Mertens led the defense with eight steals to go with nine points.

“Our whole offense starts from our defensive end,” Devils Lake coach Justin Johnson said. “The trapping … It’s fun to coach and fun to watch.”

The defensive pressure kept the Coyotes from ever getting comfortable in their first state tournament game in nine years. The Coyotes (13-13) lived by the 3-pointer at the West Region, making 14 of 28 to come back through the consolation round and earn a berth opposite the Firebirds at state. They had nine in the first half of the state qualifier against Bismarck.

It was a different story on Thursday as they were just 1-for-13 in the first half and finished the game 3-for-19. Makia Remus had all three 3-pointers and 18 points to lead the Coyotes.

Devils Lake (24-1) took a more traditional approach to the game, forcing 13 turnovers and shooting 48 percent in the first half. The Firebirds shot just three 3-pointers to take a 34-26 lead at the break. Fourteen of those points were off turnovers.

Devils Lake scored on eight straight possessions early in the game to take a 19-4 lead. Taylor Windjue netted seven or her 15 points during the run.

Brown had four steals and five assists and had nine straight points – six off turnovers – to turn an eight-point game into a second-half runaway.

“We just really work on our full court press a lot and keep it going the whole game,” Brown said. “It’s all just working together and getting our traps at the top and rotating.”