When Minot High sophomore Braydon Lund sprang off the hardwood for a two-handed slam during the Magicians' practice Thursday evening at the Minot State University Dome, his coach couldn't help but crow about his own rim-rattling memories - nay, memory - on that same floor.
"Don't get too excited, pounding your chest," sixth-year coach Dean Winczewski said with a grin. "I've had a dunk here, too."
Winczewski spent his college hoops career at Minot State, as did West Fargo coach Greg Limke. The Magicians (3-1 overall, 2-1 West Region) will host the Packers (2-1, 2-1 East Region) at 6:30 tonight and No. 4 Grand Forks Red River (3-1, 2-1 East Region) at 6 p.m. Saturday, with both games at the MSU Dome - the site of this year's Class A state tournament.
Minot High senior Noah Bosh, left, leads the Magicians in scoring with 12 points per game. Seven Minot players average six points or more.
"It's a great opportunity to come back and play," Winczewski said. "I got to play here even in high school (at Bishop Ryan). Playing in the dome was always a big deal and it's fun to be in here.
"They've made some major upgrades to it. If we can gain a little bit of experience by playing here - playing in a bigger facility than we normally do - if it helps us prep for the end of the year, then that's good, too."
Adjusting to the higher ceilings and longer court length (94 feet instead of 84) can be challenging.
"It's definitely overwhelming at first," Minot junior Noah Bosh said. "We all agree that we like these backboards and these rims a lot more, so that's nice. But a basketball court is a basketball court."
West Fargo and Red River, both projected to finish in the top half of the East Region, are strong contenders to return to the MSU Dome in March. That takes focus off the novelty of the setting and places more importance on the games.
"Both are really athletic, very skilled," Winczewski said. "Both have one player that's exceptional on their teams. Travis Schock from West Fargo and Chad Bartosh from Red River. Both really score the basketball really, really well. They have guys around them that are capable of scoring as well and that makes each of these teams dangerous."
The oppositions' standouts, both 6-foot-3 seniors, have put up big numbers so far.
Schock, an all-region performer last season, enters tonight's contest averaging 19.7 points per game. He put up 27 points and nine rebounds in a season-opening win over defending Class A champion Shanley.
Bartosh, an all-region and all-state tournament team selection a year ago, tosses in 26.3 points and 9.8 boards a night. He also finished his football career as a two-time all-state quarterback and played Minot twice this year.
"He's very athletic. He's long and tall," Minot senior Kolton Larson said. "From a standpoint on the football field, he's got kind of a mentality that he knows how to win. He's a very competitive athlete and just very gifted."
Minot will counter with a bevy of capable scorers. Led by Bosh (12 points per game) and senior center Colter Hustad (10.8), the Magicians have seven players pouring in six points or more a night.
"They don't really care who scores," Winczewski said. "I think we've had seven scorers in double figures, which is remarkable to be honest with you. Obviously there's guys who are gonna take more shots, but it's just a matter of adjusting to what the defense is doing."
Following a loss to Bismarck High on Dec. 12, the Magicians' unselfish play has resulted in blowout wins over Jamestown and Dickinson. They'll certainly be tested this weekend, albeit in non-region play.
"These are games for us to get better," Winczewski said, "to compete against good teams and continue to grow so that by the time we get to the regional tournament we're at our best."
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.