The Magic dropped games to the top two teams in the conference this past week, but those losses were sandwiched around a much more memorable victory.
Playing at Becker on Monday night, Monticello stormed back from a double-digit second-half deficit to force overtime, where they used a full-court pass and a last-second three-pointer to pull out a thrilling victory.
The Magic started the non-conference game slowly, trailing Becker 39-32 at the half. According to Coach Jason Schmidt, that deficit grew to ten points with just ten minutes remaining in the game.
Then, the Magic flipped a switch. On defense, they went to a 2-3 zone, forcing Becker into outside shots that wouldn’t fall. On offense, the Magic got hot. Erik Hammill went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in the second half, while Brody Grantz knocked down two three-pointers of his own to help get Monticello back in the game.
“You start knocking down those shots, everything else becomes better,” said Schmidt.
With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Monticello had the ball, trailing by two. The Magic called timeout to set up a play.
They executed it perfectly, according to Schmidt, with Grantz finding Hammill on a backdoor cut and Hammill making the shot to tie the game and force overtime.
In the extra session, the teams continued to battle back and forth.
Monticello held a late lead, but the Bulldogs scored to tie it with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
With Monticello inbounding from the far end of the court, the game appeared to be headed for overtime.
Tyler Frie threw a length of the court pass to James Schyma, standing on the left wing, according to Schmidt. Schyma caught the ball and rose up behind the three point line, releasing the potential game-winner before the buzzer sounded.
Swish. Magic win, 83-80.
“I was really happy for James, really happy for all of the guys,” said Schmidt. “It was a pretty neat moment.”
For the game, Hammill led the charge, scoring 21 points. Schyma finished with 14 points, Grantz and Frie each added 12 and Matt Grathwohl made it five players in double figures with 11 points of his own.
Prior to that game, Monticello dropped a 67-48 decision at Big Lake on Friday night.
Grantz and Schyma both scored 11 points for the Magic, who trailed 38-29 at the half.
Tuesday, Monticello played host to Buffalo, the top team in the Mississippi.
The Magic dug themselves a hole early, climbed out, then dug a deeper hole they weren’t able to get out of, losing 70-45 to the Bison.
The game did not start well for the Magic, as they fell behind 7-0 just over two minutes in.
But, Monticello bounced back.
A three-pointer from Grantz got Monticello on the board, three minutes into the game. After a handful of defensive stops, Monticello found an offensive spurt.
Ryan Todd scored four quick points off the bench, and when Grathwohl converted a layup and a free throw, five minutes into the half, Monticello had erased the early deficit and moved in front 10-9.
The game went back and forth for the next few minutes. A three from Todd, followed by a three-point play for Hammill off a sweet dish from Grantz, kept the two teams even at 18 a piece, midway through the first half.
But then, another Buffalo run, and this time Monticello couldn’t match it.
The Bison, using a bevy of offensive rebounds, reeled off ten straight points against the Magic, pulling in front 28-18. They would extend the lead all the way to 34-20 before a three-pointer from Grathwohl just before intermission cut the halftime deficit to 11.
“[Limiting runs] is essential,” said Schmidt. “We can’t give them second chances. That’s what keeps runs going. When you get a good initial stop, and you don’t convert on a rebound, it’s a killer.”
Monticello continued to fight in the second half, but they weren’t able to close the gap. The Magic fell behind by 18, closed the gap to 12, but then saw Buffalo pull away down the stretch for the 25-point victory.
Schmidt said the Magic will need to play tougher if they want to find success in the postseason, which begins Tuesday.
The Magic (12-13) are all but locked in as the fifth seed in Section 5AAA, meaning they’ll likely head to Delano, to take on the fourth-seeded Tigers.
Monticello traveled to Delano early in the year, falling 67-54, but the Tigers have since lost their star guard to a wrist injury and have been a different team down the stretch.
“They’re still good,” said Schmidt. “But I think we can present some problems for them.”
Schmidt said it will come down to the same things that almost always decide postseason basketball games.
“Playoffs comes down to who’s more physical and who executes on the glass,” said Schmidt. “For us to win, we’re going to have to rebound, take care of the ball, and knock down some shots.”
Monticello has one more regular season game before beginning sections. The Magic play at Princeton Friday night at 7:15.
Sections begin Tuesday night.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com