For 36 minutes Tuesday night, the Magic hung around with fourth-seed Minneapolis Washburn and Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Chase Coley. But in the end it was too much Coley, and too much Washburn defense for Monticello to overcome, as the Magic fell 62-53 in the Class AAA State Tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday night, ending their season with a record of 22-7.
The Magic had their chances throughout the game, but were never fully able to grab them and run with them.
Defensively, Monticello came out early and proved ready for the challenge of taking on the recently named MN Gatorate Player of the Year and Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year and her teammates.
The Magic held Washburn to just 24 points in the first half, with Coley tallying 11.
But Monticello wasn’t able to take advantage on the other end of the court.
“Our defense was phenomenal,” said Coach Craig Geyen. “We just couldn’t score.”
The Magic created good looks early, those looks just wouldn’t fall.
Jump shot after jump shot clanged off the rim during the first half, as Monticello fell behind 16-8 with over ten minutes gone by.
But just as they did in the section final, the Magic were able to use a late spurt to gain some positive momentum going into the half.
With Washburn leading 20-12, Emily Gruber got going. The senior post scored six points in the final few minutes of the half, with Lentner adding a basket in between, as Monticello narrowed the gap to 24-20 at the half, despite shooting just 30 percent from the field.
“We missed a couple bunnies and some open shots,” said Geyen. “You hit a couple of those and you could go into halftime up four or eight and it’s a whole different ball game.”
Instead, Monticello would need some second half Magic.
And it looked early on like they’d get it.
The half started with back-to-back three pointers from Gabby Laimer and Alyssa Lentner, giving Monticello their first lead of the game, 26-24.
“I thought, ‘hey, now we go,’” said Geyen. “But it just didn’t work out.”
Two minutes later, the Millers took the lead back, 29-28, and the Magic would fight an uphill climb from there.
The battle seesawed for the next handful of minutes, as numerous Gruber buckets kept the Magic within striking range.
Midway through the half, the offense stalled and Washburn appeared as if they were ready to pull away, stretching the lead to 47-38.
But Monticello’s seniors had one more push left in them.
Two baskets from Gruber were sandwiched around a Grace Sawatzke triple, as Monticello pulled within 47-45.
“Our girls never quit,” said Geyen. “That’s what we ask them to do.”
But no level of fight was enough to combat the inside presence of Coley, teamed with a couple of timely three-pointers from her teammates, down the stretch.
In the minutes following Monticello’s run, the Iowa commit, who finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds, went on a personal 7-2 run against the Magic, pushing the lead to 7, a number that Monticello wouldn’t seriously threaten again.
The loss, which ends the career of the most decorated class in the history of Monticello girls basketball, was a tough one for Geyen to swallow.
“Anytime, especially at the end of the season, you can look and say you didn’t play your best, it’s going to eat at you a little bit,” he said.
But, Geyen preaches to his girls to control what they can control, and he knew they did that. They rebounded, defended and hustled right along side of Washburn.
They just couldn’t hit shots, shooting 34 percent as a team, and just 25 percent outside of Gruber’s outstanding 9 for 14 shooting.
“She was unbelievable,” said Geyen, of Gruber, adding that her addition was incredibly key for Monticello this season.
“We’re probably not here without her.”
But they were there, for a third straight season, and a tough loss wasn’t going to overshadow all that this group of seniors accomplished.
The team ends the season with a record of 22-7, and the seniors end their careers with three section titles, three state tournament appearances (the only three in program history) and a fourth place finish at the tournament.
“It was a heck of a ride,” said Geyen, who told the girls in the locker room after that they may be leaving, but what they’ve accomplished won’t go with them.
“Their impact, and legacy, is going to last for many years,” said Geyen.
“They’ve changed everything about this program.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org