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Devils Lake makes first state girls basketball appearance since 2021

Feb. 27—GRAND FORKS — Tylie Brodina, a freshman, is leading Devils Lake girls basketball in scoring this season.

She doesn't do it alone, though. The Firebirds play team basketball in every sense of the word, subbing often and relying on fresh legs from the bench.

The Firebirds have 10 players who average over eight minutes of playing time per game. Three — Brodina, Torri Fee and Cabryn Fritel — play over 20 minutes per game.

"I've got a lot of kids that can play," Devils Lake coach Justin Klein said. "I play probably 10, 12 kids in a game, and we have some kids who can shoot well, some kids can defend, but we don't have a bunch of stars. We play pretty good team basketball within the system and push the tempo. It's kind of chaotic at times, but it seems to get the job done usually."

That philosophy helped the Firebirds qualify for the North Dakota Division A girls basketball state tournament. The Firebirds last made a state tournament in 2021. Devils Lake, the No. 3 seed, opens the tournament with a 2:45 p.m. quarterfinal game Thursday against No. 6 Northern Cass at the Minot State Dome in Minot.

In that time since their last state appearance, the Firebirds developed their underclassmen, and now "things are finally clicking," Klein said.

"We were a young team the last year or two," he said. "We knew whatever class we were going to be in, we should be able to compete pretty well. We've gotten some good minutes from the younger kids, and the juniors and seniors have been the core group for the last two or three years."

Fee, Fritel and senior Jadyn Frelich are the only three players on the roster with state tournament experience from the 2021 trip.

Devils Lake has an impactful junior class which includes Fee, Fritel and Jolie Martinson. They are the next highest scorers on the team behind Brodina.

They helped lead the Firebirds to a 7-2 finish in Region 2 regular-season play, with the only losses coming to top seed and undefeated Thompson. Devils Lake lost a third game to the Tommies in the Region 2 tournament, taking

Thompson down to the wire

and losing 70-69 on a buzzer-beater from Brenna Martin.

Last week's game proved to the Firebirds that they've improved this season and have the ability to play well against anyone.

"Those are games on our schedule that we circled," Klein said. "I think we did do enough things to win, except for the last 12 seconds, but it was very competitive. We've learned some things, and we have some kids who have played better."

A possible rematch between Devils Lake and Thompson wouldn't happen until the state title game. To get there, the Firebirds first need to beat Northern Cass.

A key to the game will be taking care of the boards and containing Jaguars guard Haidyn Crockett. She was lights out in the Region 1 tournament, scoring a career-high 40 points against Central Cass and 39 in a semifinal win over Kindred.

Devils Lake will also rely on the press, something that has helped them all season.

"With a lot of kids, we can keep kids fresh and push the ball in transition and press," Klein said. "Wear a lot of teams down. Sometimes it might take two, three quarters, but wearing teams down has helped us finish games."

Coach: Justin Klein.

Record: 18-6.

Top scorers: Fr. G Tylie Brodina 13.0 points per game; jr. G/F Torri Fee 8.4 ppg; jr. F Jolie Martinson 6.5 ppg; jr. G/F Cabryn Fritel 6.3 ppg.

State tournament history: Devils Lake has three state championships, last winning in 1987. The Firebirds haven't made a state appearance since 2021.