Rejuvenating the magic

MHS boys basketball begins climb back to the top

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot High guard Alex Schimke (25) takes a shot during the West Region Tournament last season against Bismarck Legacy at the Bismarck Event Center.

For the first time in three seasons, the Minot High School boys basketball isn’t entering the upcoming season as defending state champions. But that’s not keeping head coach Dean Winczewski and company up at night.

After winning three straight state titles from 2015-2017, the Magicians fell short of becoming the first North Dakota Class A boys basketball program to win four consecutive state championships with a 72-69 loss to Mandan in a state qualifier at the West Region Tournament.

Although the heartbreaking loss isn’t the way the Magi intended on ending their season, the team has left those memories in the past where they belong. All that matters is right now.

“We don’t worry about the year before because that’s long gone,” Winczewski said. “We’re just playing the hand we’re dealt this year, and we’re going to take it one game at a time.”

The Magi graduated six seniors over the summer, including three of the team’s primary scorers in Chandler Albertson, Lofton Klabunde and Peyton Lamoureux. With the departure of these key players, Winczewski expects those returning to embrace expanded roles and keep the winning Minot High tradition going.

“The term Magician Tradition is there for a reason,” Winczewski said. “We’re trying to maintain that success, and we like our kids this year. We feel like we have enough talent to win games in our league consistently.”

Repping the maroon and gold for one last year is senior Alex Schimke. The 6-foot-2 guard is a hard-nosed, all-around scorer that will get the opportunity to become Minot High’s go-to scorer this season.

Also returning is Jaxon Gunville. The junior guard can cause some serious damage behind the arc with his precision three-point shooting, and he’s become a consistent two-way player with the development of his on-ball defense.

Anchoring the paint is Easton Larson. The 6-foot-6 center has paired his defensive prowess with a recently-improved short game on offense, allowing him to finish at the rim.

While the Magi have plenty of offensive firepower, the group has placed an emphasis on improving its defense and controlling the boards this time around.

“We’re going to have to defend the ball and rebound better than last year,” Winczewski said. “We feel like if we do that we’ll have an opportunity to win regardless of who we put on the floor.”

Minot High begins its season today at 7:45 p.m. as it hits the road to take on Williston. It’ll be the players’ first opportunity to figure out their new roles and build some momentum for the long road ahead.

“This is just our starting point,” Winczewski said. “We’re going to go out and compete, see where we are and try to get better throughout the year.”

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.