Minot High junior Noah Bosh's cold-blooded, 15-foot baseline jumper with a minute to play appeared to ice the game away Monday at Magic City Campus. But the fun was just beginning.
The second-ranked Magicians escaped with a 67-65 win over West Region rival Bismarck, but not before providing their coaching staff with a few extra gray hairs.
After Bosh put Minot ahead 66-63, the Demons (8-5 overall, 6-4 region) cut the lead to one on junior Jon Tharaldsen's putback-and-one with 34 seconds remaining. Tharaldsen's free throw rimmed out by the slimmest of margins. Bosh turned the ball over with 18 seconds on the clock, leaving Minot's fate on the defensive end.
Those 18 seconds seemed to last an eternity.
Bismarck missed twice in the final 10 seconds, but pulled down two boards. Demons senior star Taylor Schafer had one last chance, but his 3-pointer fell short and Bosh snared the rebound.
Minot's 6-foot-4 wing hit 1 of 2 from the charity stripe with 1.7 to play and the Magicians broke up Bismarck's inbounds pass out of a timeout. Whew.
Minot High senior forward Kolton Larson shoots just over the reach of Bismarck’s Luke Keller on Tuesday at Magic City Campus.
"Good teams find ways to win, even when things don't go well," Bosh said. "That's what we did, through effort."
Minot (12-2, 9-2) has won 11 of 12 games - including five straight - since dropping an 80-60 decision at Bismarck on Dec. 12. Tuesday's drag-out victory fares on the ugly side of those 11 wins.
The Magicians shot 41.2 percent from the field and 63.6 from the charity stripe, afforded Bismarck 29 free-throw attempts and were outrebounded 42-35. The Demons outscored Minot 12-3 in second-chance points.
"It wasn't pretty and we didn't execute the way we needed to all the time, but we had some kids step up and make some plays down the stretch," Minot coach Dean Winczewski said.
Before Bosh's dagger, which his coach dubbed "a monster," junior point guard Dakota Halvorson delivered three floaters in a two-minute span. Big plays down the stretch can hide deficiencies, Winczewski said.
"Those are the things that you gotta do," he said. "You gotta be able to make those plays."
The bulk of the second half went like this: foul, free throws, foul, free throws, foul, free throws.
The Magicians knocked down 14 of 20 freebies in the second half, and made 21 of 33 altogether. Minot and Bismarck combined to shoot 62 total free throws, with 38 coming after halftime.
Midway through the second frame, the Magicians went on a 7-0 spurt over a 3:37 span to take the lead for good. Junior guard Nick Soltis capped the run with a contested 3 that sent the whited-out Magi student section berserk. As the shot clock wound under five seconds, Soltis took a bobbled handoff from sophomore guard Ben Bolinske, then launched a jumper from the top of the key that gave Minot a 48-44 lead with 9:24 remaining.
"That gets everybody fired up," Bosh. "We have shooters everywhere and they're out there for a reason. That really sparks us on defense when we get excited and get the crowd into it."
Bosh paced Minot with 17 points, Halvorson added 11 and senior center Colter Hustad chipped in 12 points and seven boards.
Bosh had 11 of his 17 in a back-and-forth first half. Minot and Bismarck exchanged 9-0 and 7-0 runs, respectively, late in the frame before the Demons took a 36-34 lead into the break.
Schafer finished with a game-high 20 points, but went just 5-for-21 on field goals and was 2-for-11 from downtown. Tharaldsen poured in 18 points and senior guard James Iron Eyes had 12.
"Second half was better (defensively)," Winczewski said. "We gave them too many second chances in the first half."
The Magicians travel to Dickinson on Friday. Tuesday's ugly win over Bismarck may have delivered the ideal outcome: a win that exposes many areas to work on.
"We learned we gotta do better situationally late in games," Winczewski said. "That's the one thing that this team has done every time we've played a game - we've gone back and learned from what we haven't done, corrected those mistakes."
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.