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Second-half surge propels Magi basketball over Century, 61-48

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Minot senior center Easton Larson goes up for a layup in the second half of Minot's game against Bismarck Century on Tuesday night. The Magicians earned a 61-48 victory over the Patriots in Minot.

Easton Larson had no intentions of losing his last home game.

Larson and the Minot High School boys basketball team (15-6, 14-6 WDA) handled Bismarck Century (11-10, 11-9 WDA) in a 61-48 contest on Tuesday night. Seven Minot seniors (Tucker Olson, Derry Lentz, Jaxon Gunville, Cole Broen, Caden Johnson, Johnny Butz and Larson) wrapped up their final regular season as Magicians.

“It was a lot of fun,” Larson said about playing on senior night. “It feels great to end with a W.”

The Magi showed flashes of solid play in the first half, but couldn’t string many baskets together. The Patriots worked their way to a 28-25 advantage at halftime.

Notably, Gunville broke Peyton Lamoureux’s school record for made 3-pointers in a single season. Lamoureux’s record stood at 85 3-pointers, but Gunville’s deep wing triple made history.

After emerging from the locker room, the Magi shook off the first-half nerves. Ferocious defense and a balanced offense led to Minot’s 16-0 run in the second frame.

“If we wanted to flip this game around, it had to come by rebounding,” Minot head coach Dean Winczewski said. “It started with (Larson) being physical with their big, strong posts. Then, our guards got in there. It just kind of took off from there. We took a major step in understanding the necessity of it.”

The shell-shocked Patriots started forcing 3-pointers. Century’s first-half shooting touch seemed to vanish in thin air.

At the other end, the Magi attacked the basket with a newfound relentlessness. Their resilient efforts at the rim eventually led to a 41-28 tally.

Although the offense came alive, Winczewski praised the Magi’s defensive efforts.

“It was all predicated off defense and rebounding,” he said of Minot’s run. “We made shots, and it was other guys getting opportunities and second chances themselves. But when it came down to it, it was the (defensive) end. It was getting on the glass, it was finishing plays and it was a really good step forward getting ready for the tournament.”

In the midst of manning the middle all night, Larson made one of the most critical hustle plays of the game. With 5:31 remaining in the game, the center scooped up a loose ball and converted an and-one opportunity.

Gunville hit a 3-point dagger with just over two minutes left. Minot led 60-43 after his swish from distance.

The Minot student section began to chant, “This one’s over!” Century scrambled in the final moments, but the margin proved too wide.

Larson led the Magi with 15 points, while junior guard Deonte’ Martinez added 14 points. Gunville (12 points) and Lentz (10 points) also finished in double figures, and the Magi limited Century senior guard Cade Feeney to 15 points.

“We played better defense,” Larson said. “We really buckled down on that. We got rebounds and limited their second chances. We did a great job boxing out and going to the flight of the ball.”

After sweeping the season series with the Patriots, Minot locked up the No. 3 seed in next week’s WDA Tournament. The action will begin next Thursday at the Bismarck Events Center.

“It’s hard not to get excited for a group of kids that have worked this hard,” Winczewski said. “When you see them execute in the way they’re capable, it’s really an exciting thing.”

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

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