Lady Magic earn second straight section championship

Attitude, rebounding, defense and effort. Coach Craig Geyen preaches those four things to his girls basketball team on a nearly daily basis.
“Control what you can control,” he’ll say.
Those controllables have gotten Monticello a second straight state berth.
Friday night, Monticello controlled three of the four, and none more than defense. The Magic held Dassel Cokato to a season low in points, as the top seed grinded out the section title, 49-33.
While it wasn’t Monticello’s best effort on the boards (getting outrebounded 37-26), they controlled everything else in their power, including the game as a whole, basically from start to finish.
“Our rebounding wasn’t the best tonight,” said Geyen. “But our attitude and effort were great, and our defense was unbelievable.”

Alyssa Lentner goes in for a layup during the first half of Monticello's section final win over Dassel Cokato. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

Alyssa Lentner goes in for a layup during the first half of Monticello’s section final win over Dassel Cokato. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

The style of game was established early, as Monticello looked to grab its second straight state berth (and second in program history) at the expense of the Chargers.
Dassel Cokato scored first, but that bucket didn’t come until two minutes had elapsed. And the three-pointer that they hit was a shot that the Magic were willing to concede, as they looked to take away easy inside baskets. Gabby Laimer would respond by getting to the free throw line in transition. She hit one, getting the Magic on the board. After an Alyssa Lentner transition layup, Christine Lui knocked down a three-pointer, giving Monticello its first lead at 6-5.
As the offense slowly warmed up, the defense was starting to lock in. Monticello was doubling Dassel Cokato on inbound passes, and they were pressuring up and down the court. The in-your-face style forced a handful of turnovers early. The Magic took advantage.
A three-pointer from Laimer capped a 10-0 Magic run, and put the favorites up 13-5 just over six minutes into the game.
The Chargers came out of a timeout with a little more patience, but the Magic were able to use that against them. While Dassel seemed content to work the ball around the perimeter, Monticello was not equally content to let them. The Magic continued to step into passing lanes and wreak havoc, creating turnovers in bunches (21 for the game). They were, and always are, at their best when they were able to turn those turnovers into transition offense.
“If we can get transition buckets, it makes everything so much easier,” said Geyen.
Those transition points helped the Magic push the lead to 23-12 late in the first half. That would hold as the halftime score when both teams failed to score for the last couple minutes. Monticello forced enough turnovers to have a bigger halftime lead, but they’d also given up enough rebounds for it to be much closer.
“[It felt like] we played offense five percent of the [half] and defense 95 percent of the time. They were always on offense,” said Grace Sawatzke. “But we were still up, and we knew we were winning because of our defense.”
The Magic were also winning due to Laimer, who had a team-high nine points for the Magic at halftime, and due to Kallie Gau and Ashlyn Cole who had four and two points respectively, but had provided invaluable minutes (and defense) off the bench. They were also winning despite a rare scoreless half for Sawatzke, the team’s leading scorer.
But the all-everything guard changed that early in the second half. Sawatzke got out in transition on the second play of the half, finishing a layup and drawing the foul to extend Monticello’s lead to 12, its largest of the game.
The Chargers were not yet ready to fold. The Magic got just one transition bucket and two free throws over the next seven-plus minutes, as Dassel closed to within 30-24.
“Coach {Dan} Meilke always says ‘they’re going to make a run,’” said Sawatzke. “You’ve got to be able to play through it.”
Monticello did play through it, and found an answer to end it. Sawatzke got to the free throw line, helping to quell DC’s momentum. After hitting two free throws, she stepped in

Magic fans were loud and proud all night Friday during Monticello’s section final game against Dassel Cokato. “It was so much louder [than a regular game],” said Magic junior guard Christine Lui. “It gets you so much more pumped up.”

Magic fans were loud and proud all night Friday during Monticello’s section final game against Dassel Cokato. “It was so much louder [than a regular game],” said Magic junior guard Christine Lui. “It gets you so much more pumped up.”

front of a pass on defense, and found Lui streaking down court for a fast break layup. Suddenly, the lead was up to 10, and all the momentum was back in Monticello’s corner, as was a loud and boisterous crowd.
“The fans helped the momentum,” said Laimer. “They’re unbelievable. Game in and game out, they’ve always been here rooting for us.”
Down the stretch, Laimer continued to give the fans reason to cheer.
With the lead still at ten, Laimer missed a three but instead of hanging her head, followed the miss off the rim. Her hustle got her to the ball first, and she grabbed the offensive rebound and went right back up with it, extending the lead up to 12 points. Two possessions later Sawatzke got another steal (one of five on the game) and looked up to find Laimer ahead of the pack. Laimer laid it in, pushing the lead to fifteen points with five minutes to go.
A Lui fast break layup made it 45-27 with just under four minutes left, and after a few free throws from Laimer, who finished with a game-high 19 points (she was the only player in the game in double figures), and one from Sawatzke, Monticello had enough cushion to take out their starters for the final ninety seconds.
They left to a thunderous ovation.

Senior Bailey Bechtold (left) and the game’s high scorer, Gabby Laimer (right), rejoice with the section championship plaque while Alyssa Lentner and other teammates look on.

Senior Bailey Bechtold (left) and the game’s high scorer, Gabby Laimer (right), rejoice with the section championship plaque while Alyssa Lentner and other teammates look on.

They also left with another goal accomplished.
“Last year we were like guinea pigs it felt like, we came into this not knowing what to expect,” said Laimer, a key contributor to last year’s state tournament squad. “This year the standards and expectations are so much higher. We felt like we had to get a job done, and we did it.”
Due to those expectations, for this year’s Magic, winning the section isn’t the final goal. As sweet as Friday’s victory was, and as much as the team reveled in the joy of celebration immediately after the game, it was also quickly upward and onward for Monticello, as they look to build off last year’s first-ever state tournament experience.
“Our kids are like ‘what’s that next step, what’s the next step that we can take?’” said Geyen. “They had that look in their eyes tonight like we got this, now what’s next?”
The next step is state. The Magic were set to play at Williams Arena Wednesday at 4 p.m., after this edition of The Monticello Times went to press. Monticello, which hoped to get one of the top five seeds at the Class AAA state tournament, instead had to settle for an unseeded draw with third-seeded Fergus Falls, who is undefeated this season. While that draw was out of their control, Wednesday they’ll go back to attempting to control everything they can. And they’ll hope it works just as well as it did Friday night, when Monticello, for a second straight year, were in control all the way to a section championship.

The Magic celebrate their second straight section championship.

The Magic celebrate their second straight section championship.

up arrow