Despite all of the accomplishments the Magic girls basketball team has chalked up over the last few years, one has continued to elude them.
The Mississippi 8 Conference championship.
After Thursday night’s loss to St. Michael-Albertville, the defending conference champions, Monticello again finds themselves behind the 8-ball as this senior class tries to make history one more time.
The Magic gave themselves a chance to steal a road win over the No. 10 ranked team in the state’s biggest class, and get an early leg up in the conference race. In a battle between two teams that entered the game unbeaten in Mississippi 8 play, Monticello held the home team to just 14 first half points. But, they failed to completely capitalize on their strong defense in the first half, scoring just 19 points of their own after shooting just 6 for 22 from the field.
Coach Craig Geyen anticipated the second half would go a little differently.
“You had to figure both teams were going to score a little more in the second half,” he said.
The Knights did, but the Magic didn’t.
After the Magic had led by as much as nine in the first half, and by 8 in the final minutes, STMA tied the game at 22, just three minutes into the second half.
The Knights kept going from there.
Four more buckets, including a three-pointer, sandwiched around a lone Monticello free throw, capped a 22-6 run for the Knights and gave them a 33-25 lead.
Gabby Laimer stopped the run with a three-pointer of her own, but the Magic would get no closer.
The Knights extended the lead to 43-28 before keeping the Magic at bay for the remainder of the game and handing Monticello (No. 8 in AAA) their first conference loss of the season.
While it goes in the scorebook as a 15-point Magic loss, it will be remembered as a game the Magic felt like they could’ve had.
“It was there for the taking,” said Geyen.
But after the opening minutes, Monticello couldn’t hit the shots to take it.
The Magic shot just over 27 percent from the field, while turning the ball over 20 times.
The Knights, meanwhile, got hot early in the second half and never really cooled down.
“Once they got to the basket a few times, they were able to hit a few more shots,” said Geyen.
One bright spot for Monticello was the play of Melissa Schmitt. The sophomore scored 10 points, including hitting three first half three-pointers to help Monticello jump out to the big early lead.
“Give Melissa props,” said Geyen. “They tried to let her shoot, and she beat them with it. She gave a big boost to us.”
While Geyen said the Magic will need to cut down on the turnovers to reach the success they’d like to have, he also said their execution isn’t a big concern.
“We got some open looks and we just didn’t hit them,” he said. “We just have to continue to execute and take good shots, and shots will start to fall.”
Tuesday night, the Magic bounced back in a big way.
Facing Buffalo, another conference power, on the road, Monticello used a big second half to pull away for a 63-47 victory.
The Magic led by just two points at the half, but, led by Gruber and Laimer, they cranked up the offense in the second half.
The Magic scored 42 points during the final 18 minutes, doubling their first half output.
For the game, Gruber led the Magic with 22 points, while Laimer added 18 points. Alyssa Lentner also reached double figures for the Magic, scoring 12 points.
The game marked Buffalo’s second loss of the conference season, while moving the Magic to 4-1 in Mississippi 8 action and 12-4 overall.
Monticello is back in action Friday night, as they play the second game of a boys and girls doubleheader against Big Lake.
The boys game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., and the girls game is scheduled for 7:30, or approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of the boys game.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com