Magic basketball earns holiday split

If winning ugly is better than losing pretty, than winning ugly is certainly better than losing ugly.
That was fully evident last week as Monticello boys basketball earned a split at a four-team holiday tournament in Fergus Falls. The Magic picked up a 62-50 first round win over Duluth Denfeld, despite 27 turnovers, and fell 65-47 to Grand Rapids in a physical, grinding game that led to 56 fouls (between the two teams) while limiting one of the state’s best players to two field goals.
The opener, as Coach Jason Schmidt described it, was a typical first game back from Christmas break.
“It was sloppy,” said Schmidt. “We had 27 turnovers, they had 29 turnovers.”
But while the Magic had two less turnovers, they had two more playmakers. Will Bauman and Hayden Laimer carried the Magic to an early lead and never really let Denfeld back in it. Schmidt said the Magic spent very little time running their offense in the opener, as they found their opponent didn’t have an answer for Bauman when they spread the floor out and gave him the ball. For the game, Bauman tallied 26 points, many of which came at or near the rim, while Laimer finished with 19 points, the majority coming on jump shots.
After jumping out to an early lead – something that has been a rarity for the Magic this season – Monticello also turned to its defense to supress any possible Denfeld runs.
“We put a trap on them and it really caused some havoc,” said Schmidt. “We’ve started putting a little more of a press on lately; we’re trying to figure out how good we can be at that.”
The pressure defense helped the Magic earn a date with Grand Rapids and their top recruit, sophomore Alex Illikainen.
Illikainen, a 6’9” center scored over 40 points and grabbed more than 20 rebounds a night prior as he led Grand Rapids to a victory over Minneapolis Patrick Henry.
“He’s a heck of a player,” said Schmidt. “He’s the real deal.”
Against Monticello, Illikainen found points, and everything else, a bit tougher to come by. Monticello went to a box and 1 defense against the talented big man, allowing one guy to constantly defend him while the rest of the defense swarmed around him whenever he got a touch.
“We felt like we had to do something different and make their other guys beat us,” said Schmidt. “Our poor shooting and the good shooting by their other guys was the difference.”
In the end, Monticello fell by nearly 20 despite just 15 from Grand Rapids’ star. But their aggressive and physical defense, along with another big game from Bauman, kept them in it until the final minutes. The Magic trailed by just five at the half, largely because of their defense. Monticello threw multiple defenders on Illikianen, including Gunnar Nemitz, Tanner Okerson, Tyler Frie and Travis Moe, using up all of their individually alotted fouls to frustrated Illikainen and keep him at bay.
“It was a committee going after him,” said Schmidt.
The Magic will look to continue the defensive intensity Saturday night, as they host Rocori for Alumni  night. The game is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. It was originally scheduled for 7:15 p.m., but rescheduled so that it does not conflict with the Vikings and Packers playoff game being played Saturday night.