Doing the dirty work

Larson helps Magi basketball to 71-63 win over Century

Justin Martinez/MDN Minot High junior Easton Larson (40) attacks the rim for a putback shot during the Magicians' 71-63 home win over Bismarck Century on Tuesday.

Regardless of what the Magicians needed, Easton Larson had them covered.

The junior center was the heart of one of the Minot High School boys basketball team’s gutsiest wins to date on Tuesday at home against Bismarck Century. Larson could be found patrolling the rim, diving on the floor for loose balls and banking in two-footers for all 36 minutes as the Magi (14-7, 13-7 West Region) used a series of runs to earn the 71-63 win over the Patriots (14-7, 14-6).

“Kids made plays, and it was an incredible team effort tonight,” MHS head coach Dean Winczewski said. “And (Larson) has done a phenomenal job this second half of the year in getting on the glass and keeping plays alive. He doesn’t get as much credit as some of the other guys that make a ton of baskets, but the things he does for us are invaluable.”

Larson began doing damage from the opening tip, as the junior battled his way into the lane and converted an and-one layup to give his team an early 7-5 lead with 13:45 on the clock.

But the Patriots quickly silenced the crowd by launching an epic 17-1 run in the proceeding four minutes to take a convincing 22-8 lead. Sure enough, Larson provided the spark to get his team back in the mix.

The 6-foot-6 center scored six of the Magi’s next nine points and even showed off his range with a 15-foot jumper from the corner to cut the deficit to 24-17. The biggest highlight-reel play came on the following possession, though, as Larson hit the deck for a loose ball and tipped it to Jaxon Gunville.

Gunville collected the pass at the three-point line, set his feet and drained the triple. The hustle play sent the crowd into a frenzy as the Patriots were forced to call a timeout with five minutes remaining in the first half.

“I feel like we played really hard,” Larson said. “I really like getting on the ground, diving for the balls, digging in on defense and grabbing rebounds. It’s one of my favorite parts about the game.”

Even the brief stoppage of play couldn’t cool off the Magi. Minot closed the half on a 23-5 run, which was capped off by an acrobatic layup from senior Alex Schimke, to give the Magi a 33-29 lead entering halftime.

“(Century) tried to bury us in that first half,” Winczewski said. “But we had a tremendous gut check where our kids made some plays… From that point, we just had a different energy level.”

Century came out swinging in the second half, as Cade Feeney and Trenton Mattern each sank some deep triples to give the Patriots a 41-37 advantage with 14:15 left in regulation.

Once again, the Magi responded with a run of their own and launched a massive 23-6 run over the next six and a half minutes to take a 60-47 lead.

Much like the first-half hustle play, the highlight came at the 9:30 mark courtesy of Larson and Gunville.

After Larson swatted away a Century shot on the defensive end, the center dished the ball to his fellow junior teammate. Gunville found some space and sank a 30-foot bomb that was nothing but net.

Century kept battling in the closing minutes and ultimately got the deficit down to five points, but a pair of Derry Lentz free throws with 54 seconds remaining gave the Magi a 67-60 lead and ultimately allowed them to secure the 71-63 win.

“(Century) is a really good team that works hard and has a lot of hustle plays like we do,” Larson said. “They made some shots coming down the stretch…It just feels good to get the win.”

The Magi had four players finish with double-digit points in the win: Gunville (18), Schimke (17), sophomore Deonte’ Martinez (15) and Larson (13).

Minot will look to build off the statement victory as it now shifts its focus to the WDA tournament in Bismarck, where it’ll begin its postseason run on Feb. 28 as the No. 5 seed.

“You want to know that you can compete and beat good teams, and Century is definitely that,” Winczewski said. “It’s just a matter of carrying that on and continuing to grow.”

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