Defense digs in

No. 5 Magi gradually overpower Williston

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot High sophomore Jaxon Gunville (right) guards Williston's Brady Aberle (5) on the perimeter in a West Region game played Thursday evening at Minot High School.

The No. 5-ranked Minot High School boys basketball team was unusually held in check for a majority of the first half Thursday evening against Williston.

Unable to get its lethal offense going at times, the Magicians (5-1, 3-1 WDA) turned to its stingy defense to lockdown the Coyotes (1-4, 1-3 WDA) for a 72-45 conference victory at Minot High School.

“I thought we were really crisp offensively for the most part,” MHS coach Dean Winczewski said. “I mean, we missed some shots that were some open looks, but we ran good offense to get them. Sometimes that happens. We had a stretch where we had five great looks and none of them went in. But, we still dug in our heels and got stops. So, in that respect, it was a great way to play tonight and hold a much improved basketball team to 45 points.”

The Magi and Coyotes couldn’t be separated until the later portion of the first half.

Williston’s leading scorer on the season, William Brown, and Koby Klassen, strung together the Coyotes first 14 points. Following a triple by senior Sam Olson, the Coyotes were up 17-15. But, that was their final lead of the night.

Alex Eisen/MDN Magi senior Chandler Albertson (right) takes a jump shot over Williston's Sam Olson (14) Tuesday evening at Minot High School.

“In the first half, we allowed them, through our own breakdowns, to get open shots and get the ball where they wanted it,” Winczewski said. “Will Brown is a really good post player and Olson shoots it as well as anybody and we lost him.”

After Olson’s triple, Minot senior Chandler Albertson answered back with a 3-pointer of his own to ignite a 24-11 run by the Magi to close out the first half. Senior forward Lofton Klabunde was getting out in transition for easy baskets and senior Peyton Lamoureux capped the opening half with a 3-pointer from way downtown to give Minot a 39-28 halftime lead.

Klabunde finished with a game-high 21 points on 10 of 14 shooting. Minot’s balanced attack was on display once again with Albertson (14 points), Lamoureux (12) and Jaxon Gunville (11) also finishing in double figures.

“We kind of took them for granted in the first half,” Gunville said. “The second half we realized that we needed to step it up, so we locked up and we played a lot better defense.”

The increase in the defensive intensity was noticeable, as they held the Coyotes to six points in the first six and a half minutes of the second half. And the halftime advantage of 11 points quickly grew out to 20 at 54-34.

Minot held Williston to 31.3 percent from the floor (5 of 16) in the second half. Williston made six 3-pointers in the first half and went 0-for-5 from behind the arc in the second half.

Brown finished with a team-high 13 points while Olson had 12 points on four 3-pointers.

Minot outscored Williston 33-17 in the second half to coast to the 72-45 victory. The Magi shot 46.9 percent (30 of 64) from the floor and made eight 3-pointers. They also outrebounded the Coyotes, 34-21.

“Coach makes it a big focus,” Minot senior Paxten Wahlund said about the defensive turnaround. “When we are focused on stopping the ball, not needing help, then good things happen. (We were) guarding the ball and getting after it. Not just working hard, but having a mindset that I’m not going to let my guy score.”

Next up, the Magi travel to Jamestown to face the Blue Jays on Tuesday. The boys will play after the girls varsity game at approximately 7:45 p.m. Before making that trip, the Majettes basketball team will host Willison this evening at 5 p.m. at Minot High School.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.