MHS basketball to begin regional playoffs
Boys host Turtle Mountain; girls head to Watford City
On Tuesday, both of Minot High’s varsity basketball teams will begin postseason play in the WDA West Regionals.
While the top-seeded Magicians boys squad plans to host eighth-seeded Turtle Mountain Community, the seventh-seeded Majettes (10-11) will travel to the Rough Rider Center to do battle with the second-seeded Watford City Wolves (16-4).
On the boy’s side, Minot is coming off a 19-1 regular season and is currently enjoying an 11-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Turtle Mountain has dropped its last two games, and comes into the postseason with an overall mark of 8-13. Despite these two vastly different records, Turtle Mountain excelled in the first half of its last meeting against Minot, jumping out to a 47-34 halftime lead back on Feb. 2.
Although the Magi would go onto win that game 92-80, MHS boys head coach Dean Winczewski acknowledges just how dangerous an opponent the Belcourt Braves are. He believes it was Turtle Mountain’s high intensity level which gave his club problems during last month’s matchup.
“We simply didn’t match their energy level in the first half,” Winczewski tells the Minot Daily News. “They played harder than us and they executed better than us to start the game, and we had to play from behind. Turtle Mountain has a number of kids who can score the ball, and they have a tremendous amount of size, so we really have to match their intensity. They are not your typical eight seed.”
Coach Winczewski says he hopes to utilize his club’s depth in Tuesday’s matchup. In addition to the exploits of Minot’s leading scorer Deonte’ Martinez who boasts a scoring average of 22 points per game, the Magi offense features two other players in junior Eric Wentz and sophomore Darik Dissette who also average double-digit scoring totals this season. Wentz comes into the contest averaging 14.4 points per game, and Dissette is second on the team averaging 15.5 points per contest.
Aside from those key starters, Winczewski also praised senior guard Teagan Kinchen as being Minot’s most consistent performer off the bench this year. In order to beat a Turtle Mountain club which features well-rounded talents such Houston Davis, Wyatt Enno and Tristin Davis, the Minot boys coach will put his faith in several rotational players.
“I have great confidence in Teagan who has definitely made some big shots for us this season. But we’ve also gotten terrific contributions from Michael Ross, RaShawn Wilcox and Gavin Argent just to name a few,” the coach continues. “It seems like we’ve been able to find a different guy every night who has helped us in a variety of ways during this streak we’ve been on.”
Meanwhile, the Majettes come into their road contest in Watford City having lost both previous matchups with the Wolves this year. On Dec. 22, Minot was on the short end of a 57-46 final, and the Majettes were defeated once again by the Wolves at home 48-36 on Feb. 16.
Despite the two losses, Minot was competitive in both games, having battled the Wolves to a 22-22 stalemate in the first half of its first game, and taking a 21-18 lead at halftime in its most recent showdown. While Majettes head coach Jason Schwarz is encouraged with what he has seen out of his club in the previous matchups against the Wolves, he stresses the importance of better offensive execution in key situations down the stretch.
“We just got finished watching film on the last Watford City game, and we definitely had our chances to score,” Schwarz states. “We had open looks behind the arc, and around the basket. From a competition standpoint, we can hang with teams of this caliber. Now it’s just a matter of executing and making the most of those opportunities.”
Minot’s leading scorer freshman Avery Lunde, who comes into the game with a 15.4 points per game average, as well as seventh grader Maggie Fricke who averages 11.6 points per game, figure to have prominent roles in the Magi offense. They will be tasked with matching the production of Watford City seniors Ashley Holen and Emma Mogen.
While Holen averages a club best 18.8 points per game, Mogen is second on the Wolves at 12.6 points per game. According to coach Schwarz, he believes his two top scorers are capable of matching Watford City’s veteran tandem of Holen and Mogen. That being said, Schwarz feels Minot may possess the advantage if the game comes down to other supporting players.
“I think we can rely on Avery and Maggie to give us a good chunk of our scoring, but after those two, everyone is going to have a chance to contribute. Maya Aguilar, Alexis Haider, Taury Hight and Elsie Hardy have all got to be ready to knock down shots when their numbers are called,” the Majettes coach continues. “Watford City is the more experienced team, but I think we can go a little deeper on our bench.”
Regardless of the outcome on Tuesday, Schwarz says he has been pleased with the level of play late in the season as Minot has won two of its last three games coming into regionals.
“I think we kind of expected this year to have its share of up and downs because our core players are so young. We have to learn how to get over the hump during close games when we are nipping at an opponent’s heels, so this will be definitely be a good test for us moving forward.”