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Bismarck-Henning’s Laura Packard takes a shot Monday against Milford. Packard had 22 points as the Blue Devils won 48-35.

Entering Monday night’s game between two of the top teams in the Vermilion Valley Conference, the only certainty was that one would leave Bismarck-Henning High School with its first conference loss.

The Milford Lady Cats were coming off a 20-point win over the Schlarman Hilltoppers that remained close until the fourth quarter.

The Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils didn’t want to be another victim of Milford’s second half success and used a 12-0 first-half run led by forward Laura Packard to extend their lead to 16 at intermission in their eventual 48-35 win over the Lady Cats.

“We saw a lot of fans tonight and we were ready to play,” said Blue Devils forward Matti Nesbitt. “It was our first home game and we knew they were going to be one of the tougher teams in the conference, so we wanted to come out strong.”

Packard scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the first half with 10 coming in the second quarter.

But once the Blue Devils padded their lead, they resorted to their signature defense that is often the key to the team’s success.

“Our defense wins us games because with our offense, like I said earlier, we’re not going to put up a bunch of points,” said Packard.

Despite being down by 26 to start the third quarter, Milford’s Kristen Estay kept the Lady Cats’ hopes of a comeback alive, outscoring the Blue Devils 8-6.

“She was determined and that’s something we expect out of her,” said Milford coach Rod Burgett. “We’ve had good games. The other night we had four (players) in double figures. A credit to their defense, they picked us up right at half court and it was kind of hard to get into any flow.”

Nesbitt grabbed 12 rebounds and had four blocks but said her team’s defensive success didn’t come easy.

“I had a really good player (Allison Kelnhofer),” Nesbitt said. “She does some good things so I just tried to stop her as best as possible.”

“To our credit, I don’t think they are an easy team to put that pressure on because they do have some kids that are very good athletes and can put the ball on the floor,” added Bismarck-Henning coach Mike Stephens. “Milford changed some things they were doing at halftime and got real aggressive with dribble penetration.

“(Estay) dribbled through us a few times and was real aggressive taking the ball to the hole.”

Estay led the Lady Cats with 16 points and Kelnhofer finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds.

The Blue Devils’ bench accounted for 13 points which came from Kristen Tuggle (7) and Cassie McCorkle (6) and that is something Stephens is hoping will continue.

“We played excellent, I thought, especially in the first quarter and about halfway through the second quarter,” said Stephens. “We got in a little foul trouble at that time but we went to the bench and got some real strong play with Kristen Tuggle and McCorkle and Katy Free.

“We’re looking for her (Packard) to step up, but we’re really looking for some balance in scoring. I thought Nesbitt got us a couple buckets and could have had a couple others around the basket and went real strong to the offensive boards tonight. Siddens (4 points) hit a couple shots when we needed them.”

Keri Roach added four points and had five boards as did Packard.

The Blue Devils will be at home again on Thursday, playing host to the Oakwood Comets (8-2, 2-1). The varsity game will follow the junior varsity game scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip off.

“They are one of the real strong teams in the Conference,” said Stephens. “I thought coming into this game that Milford was too. They put up 70 on Schlarman on Saturday and I know this Milford team is going to win their fair share of games. This is a big week for us.”

Milford will host Clifton Central in Sheldon on Saturday at 10 a.m.