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Magi basketball’s tough defense triumphs over Williston, 71-53

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Minot High senior guard Johnny Butz looks to make a pass during the second half of Friday night's game against Williston in Minot. The Magicians captured a 71-53 victory.

Early Friday afternoon, the National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) announced that Minot High School head coach Dean Winczewski earned National Basketball Coach of the Year finalist honors.

On Friday night, the Magicians proved their mettle in a 71-53 victory over Williston.

Minot (9-2, 7-2 WDA) kept the pressure on the visiting Coyotes (2-9, 1-9 WDA) all game.

Winczewski stresses the importance of defense and rebounding. The Magi responded with a defensive clinic.

“Defensively, we were really solid,” Winczewski said. “I thought we did a really good job of what they wanted to do. That’s got to be us. We went in after the last couple of games and said, ‘We’ve got to guard better.’ It’s a step in the right direction.”

White jerseys hit the floor in pursuit of loose balls and hustled for second-chance points. Additionally, the Magi applied their lessons learned from the teams’ last contest, an 85-67 win in Williston on Dec. 10.

In the first half, Minot exploited Williston’s 1-3-1 zone by whipping the ball to the corners. The drive-and-kick penetration granted several open looks from distance.

Minot senior guard Jaxon Gunville connected on his first three 3-pointers. The Magi made the open passes up to the wings, and a 16-5 Minot run over the first five minutes forced a Williston timeout.

“We knew they were going to do some different things,” Winczewski said. “We kind of figured that they were going to play their 1-3-1. We were able to get the ball moving and hit shots. They went to their chasing defenses where they try to take (Gunville) out. Teams might try to do that.”

The Coyotes clawed their way back into the game, but needed to play catch-up. Although Williston’s increased defensive pressure caused some problems, Minot took a 35-24 lead into the break.

In the second half, more penetration allowed the Magi to play the game at their preferred pace. Minot drew more fouls and finished 14-of-19 from the charity stripe.

Gunville finished with a game-high 21 points, but senior forward Derry Lentz stole the show in the second half. After Lentz wiggled his way under the hoop and scored a crucial and-one opportunity, the Minot student section burst into a frenzy.

“(Lentz), especially, I thought was good in the second half,” Winczewski said. “It’s a step. We’ve just got to keep growing out of it.”

The Magi stifled Williston’s offensive attack. Although Minot’s first-half defense was adequate, the Magi found another gear in the second frame.

Lentz finished with 15 points, while junior guard Deonte’ Martinez added 11. Senior center Easton Larson contributed nine points and three offensive rebounds, while freshman guard Darik Dissette chipped in with six points in extended minutes.

“Now, I’m getting used to it,” Dissette said of the varsity level. “My teammates are my family. They’ve helped me fit in and be more comfortable.”

Both teams will take the court at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday. Minot will travel to Bismarck Century (6-4, 6-3 WDA), while Williston will head to Turtle Mountain Community (3-7, 3-6 WDA).

“I think we’re going to be ready for Century,” Dissette said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get the job done.”

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.

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