Reigning champion Magi dominate in 94-60 season-opening win over Devils Lake
After taking a moment to revel in the riches of a hard-fought quest to their 18th state title in school history, No. 1-ranked Minot High and their army of diehard supporters marched into their 2022-2023 campaign on Friday night as the reigning North Dakota Class A state basketball champions, welcoming the Devils Lake Firebirds to the Magic City Campus for the opening game of the new season.
Hungrier than ever to retain their spot at the pinnacle of North Dakota Class A high school basketball, the Minot High Magicians and head coach Dean Winczewski trust that they can build on last year’s 25-2 dream season thanks to the return of two-time All-State star Darik Dissette and starters Jaeger Gunville, Morgan Nygaard, and Logan Conklin.
Highlighting the significance of the extensive varsity experience found across the Magi roster, Coach Winczewski explained, “Darik Dissette will be a young man we will lean on to lead us, but we also have three other starters back in Gunville, Nygaard, and Conklin that need to step up their level of play and leadership to help us grow to what we can become.”
Along with Dissette, Gunville, Nygaard, and Conklin, Coach Winczewski has high expectations for Aric Winczewski, Grayson Schaefer, and Jack Keirser, who he anticipates to make huge strides forward and to bring a plethora of significant varsity experience back for Minot High for their run at back-to-back state titles.
After dedicating notable time on improving in the areas of shooting and physical strength in the off-season, the returning depth and experience found on the reigning Class A champion Minot High’s roster seems poised to once again provide the means for the Magi to make noise throughout the basketball ranks of North Dakota as they defend their spot upon the hardwood throne.
Coming off a 2021-2022 season that saw them go 4-18 overall, the Devils Lake Firebirds and head coach Dustin Brodina find themselves searching to solidify their identity as a team this year, producing more wins on the court in the process.
Looking to translate their speed and length into victories, the Firebirds headed into Friday night’s opener needing production on both ends of the court from Wylee Delorme, Drew Hofstad, Oliver Wirth, and Parker Brodina to knock off the No. 1-ranked Magi for a statement win to kickstart the season.
Undeterred by the brisk bite of the North Dakota prairie’s wind chill, rabid Magi faithful and a “blacked-out” student section packed the bleachers at the Magic City Campus and generated rock concert-level energy as their deafening roar served as the opening act to the referee’s whistle, one that ushered in a new season of basketball for the state champions.
Controlling the tip, Devils Lake wasted no time putting points on the board, converting their first possession of the game into their first lead as well.
However, in fitting fashion, All-State senior stud Dissette opened up the scoring on the following play and first offensive possession of the season for the Magi, beating his defender on a baseline drive to knot the game 2-2.
Utilizing their height advantage against an undersized Firebirds squad, tough play in the paint by forwards Dissette and Conklin resulted in several second-chance points and free throw opportunities that would inflate the Magi advantage to 23-9 with nine minutes left in the first half.
Nevertheless, making up for a lack of size with crisp ball movement, Devils Lake guard Delorme converted a collection of precise passes into a beautiful drive down the paint for a contested bucket at the rim to bring the Firebirds to within 10 points of the Magi at 23-13.
Yet, consistent success from inside the arc, capitalizing on high-percentage opportunities near the basket, and a potent dose of pitbull defense allowed Minot High to balloon the score to 43-24 as the final seconds of the half dwindled towards zero.
Making the most of their final possession of the first 18 minutes of play, the Magi put their champion’s mentality on display as senior guard Morgan Nygaard knocked down a walk-off three-point bucket to take a 46-24 lead into the locker room.
Heading out for the second half, a regrouped Firebirds team began to heat up from the perimeter, taking it to the champs and going punch-for-punch with Minot High.
Unfortunately for Devils Lake, in spite of ratcheting up their scoring, the Magi headed off their valiant comeback efforts with hard-nose possessions in the paint that resulted in ample opportunities from the free-throw stripe for Minot High, which continued to solidify their 20-point lead at 59-39.
Serving as the primary cog of the Minot High offense for the entirety of the night, Dissette lit the fuse on a powder keg of Magi points at the 9:50 mark when he leaked out for a thunderous one-handed jam that seemingly shifted the team into mid-season form not even one game into the season.
From that pivotal point, Minot High proceeded to outscore the Firebirds by a margin of 35-21 over the remainder of the second half, courtesy of a deadly combination of free throws, efficient outside shooting, and unstoppable play on the blocks that concluded in a decisive 94-60 season opening victory for the reigning Class A state champions.
Highlighting why he is a two-time All-State selection, Minot High’s Dissette led all scorers with 35 points, while Wincheski’s 14 points and Conklin’s 11 points rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Magi.
For the Firebirds, Delorme paced the team with 16 points, while Oliver Wirth contributed 14 points in the loss.
When speaking with Dissette after his stellar performance and the resulting Magi win, he emphasized that although last year’s accomplishments were priceless, the team is focused on this season and what remains ahead for Minot High.
Dissette explained, “Talking with coach, we all know that last season is in the past now, and we look forward to working hard every day and continuing to get better. Our mission is to take things one game at a time and continue improving.”
With the first win of their state title defense under their belt, No. 1-ranked Minot High looks to build more momentum when they travel to Williston next Tuesday to battle the Coyotes at 7:30 p.m.