Coming off an opening loss, on the back of a season filled with losses, Monticello was looking for some good vibes to get this new season on track early. They found them Friday.
The Magic got off to a fast start in their home opener, looking back just once, on their way to trouncing Rocori 63-42 for their first win of the season.
The game, which was the third and final varsity clash of night one at the Monticello jamboree, began well for the Magic, but not quite as well as it could have.
Monticello turned up the pressure defense from the opening tip, keeping the Spartans off-balance and forcing a handful of turnovers in the opening minutes. By the time the first timeout of the game rolled around, the Magic had held Rocori to just a single point and were leading 5-1. But with Monticello already committing a few of their own turnovers, Coach Jason Schmidt felt like it could have been 10, or 12, to 1 at that point.
“In the first timeout we talked about executing,” said Schmidt. “Once we settled in, and just did our jobs, it worked out a lot better for us.”
Also helping Monticello execute was bringing in some shooting off the bench. Senior Michael Revenig entered the game and brought an immediate spark for the Magic.
When he pulled up off the dribble for a deep three-pointer on the right wing, his third of the half, Monticello’s lead was extended to 22-14.
“Mike came off the bench and gave us a major lift,” said Schmidt.
The lead would get as large as 28-16, before Rocori started to whittle away before the half. Trailing by 11 with just two minutes to play in the half, the Spartans hit three straight three-pointers, including a half-ending desperation heave, to pull within 31-29 at the break.
“We didn’t execute down the stretch [in the first half],” said Schmidt. “We kind of let down and let them back in it.”
As momentum hung in the air, waiting to be grabbed, the second half opened with four scoreless minutes for both sides.
Finally, the Magic broke through.
After a missed shot on the offensive end, Rocori appeared to secure the rebound. But James Schyma laid out to knock the ball out of the hands of the Spartan player. The Spartan recovered the ball, but rushed a pass to a teammate back toward the Magic hoop. Revenig, on a full sprint, deflected it toward the baseline. Continuing his sprint, the senior jumped to grab the ball out of midair and saved it back in play, right to a cutting Schyma, for a layin and Monticello’s first basket of the half.
That hustle, plus aggressiveness, was a microcosm of Monticello’s effort all night long.
“It’s so much fun,” said Revenig, about the team’s style of play. “We’re just running around and making plays. The energy is always up.”
After Schyma’s basket, they started coming in waves for Monticello, while they continued to not come for the Spartans.
Two free throws and a layin for Tyler Frie made it 37-29. Then Revenig hit his fourth triple of the game, followed by a steal and two more free throws, followed by yet another steal and a layup. Suddenly, Revenig had 18 points and the Magic had their biggest lead of the game, 44-29.
The lead stretched out to 48-29 before Rocori got their first points of the half, with less than nine minutes to go in the ball game. An offensive rebound off an air ball led to a layup, and the Spartans cut the lead back down to 17.
They would never get much closer.
The Magic defense continued to lock down the Spartans, forcing turnovers and bad shots, for the remainder of the half, allowing just 13 second half points.
“Defense is really what won us the game,” said Revenig, who finished with 20 points.
Defense, plus effort, which Schmidt said is something the Magic need to, and will, consistently bring to the table.
“They know that they have to pour everything out there every single night,” he said. “That’s the way that we have to play.”
To have that effort pay off in the form of a big win, a home win on a Friday night over a longtime rival, was a rewarding experience for the Magic.
“To feel success early is really important,” said Schmidt. “It validates all of the things that these kids have done in the offseason.”
Not that the kids necessarily needed validation to continue the hard work. According to Revenig, they know that’s their strength and they’re going to continue to use it.
“[Coach Schmidt] works us hard in practice,” said Revenig. “We’re in great shape. We know we’re outsized, so we try to use our speed and our endurance to our advantage.”
Friday night, that speed overwhelmed Rocori. Going forward, they hope that endurance will help them continue to outlast the competition.
Monticello fell to St. Cloud Apollo on the second night of the jamboree, 74-64. The Magic led 34-32 at the half, but were outscored 42-30 in the second stanza. Frie, who scored 10 points against Rocori, led the way against Apollo with a game high 26 points. Erik Hammill was the only other Magic player to reach double figures, scoring 15 points in defeat.
Monticello returns to action tonight, as they travel to Delano for a 7:30 game.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com