After a rough two games to start the season, the Magic girls basketball team seems to have found its elixir.
One could say they rebounded, in more ways than one.
With a renewed focus on crashing the glass Monti turned in an impressive week that included a 2-0 record and a staggering number of rebounds.
The week started with a road win against Rocori, a section opponent that was picked to finish ahead of the Magic this year and ended with a buzzer-beating win against Sauk Rapids.
Both were remarkable in their own right.
Tuesday night, Monti headed on the road not long removed from a beating from Brainerd, and led the whole way en route to a strong 47-36 victory at Rocori.
Coach Craig Geyen was very pleased with his team’s performance.
“To go on the road and beat a section opponent, that is huge,” said Geyen.
The head coach said defense was clearly the difference in the contest, as Monti held Rocori to just 36 points.
“We just played solid defense,” he said. “If you hold a team to 36 points, and rebound, you’re going to win some games.”
Geyen said the Magic grabbed an early lead and held it for most of the contest. In the second half the visitors boosted the lead to double digits and were able to keep it at a comfortable margin for the majority of the half.
Offensively, it was a team effort for Monticello. Natalie Swanson led the team, with 12 points. Brooke Haag and Anna Olson both joined Swanson in double figures with 10 each and Cat Terres added seven points for Monticello.
Monti, in a precursor to its next outing, grabbed 45 rebounds. Olson pulled down 13 boards and Haag grabbed 12 as both players recorded double-doubles in the contest.
Lauran Zwack and Brooke Bechtold both had solid all-around games for Monti as well with Zwack recording four assists and three steals while Bechtold had three assists and four steals.
Three nights later, Bechtold would steal the show.
Playing on the road at Sauk Rapids on Friday night, the Magic found themselves in a tightly contested affair. As the clock wound down to the final minute, Sauk Rapids and Monti were tied at 52 each.
Sauk Rapids had the ball, and was set to hold for the last shot, according to Geyen. But with just 10 seconds left, the Magic got a deflection and caused a loose ball. A mad scramble ensued and after some debate, the refs called a jump ball, giving possession to Monti.
The Magic in-bounded the ball with 6.5 seconds left, at about three quarters court. Bechtold, the team’s point guard and senior leader, caught the in-bounds. The guard jetted up the court, getting all the way into the lane where she took and hit a tough runner right as the buzzer sounded. The shot counted, setting off a celebration for the visitors, 54-52 victors.
“It was cool to see the girls excited and jumping up and down and kind of storming the court,” said Geyen. “It was a good way to start the weekend.”
Monti put itself in position to win the game thanks to a program record tying 60 rebounds, 27 of which came on the offensive end.
“Unbelievable,” said Geyen, about the number of rebound, which tied a record set during the 1994-95 season.
“This week we really stressed rebounding, and showed them film clips,” he said. “They’re quick learners. It was awesome to see.”
Olson and Haag were the ringleaders once again. Olson pulled down 20 rebounds to go with her team-high 16 points.
Through four games the freshman is averaging 14.2 points per game and a wildly impressive 15 rebounds per contest.
“She’s been great,” said Geyen. “Her development over the summer and what she put in is really paying off.”
Geyen said Olson, who is 6’0”, always puts herself in good position to grab rebounds.
“She’s just kind of got a nose and a knack for the ball,” he said. “She can read where the ball is going. And she’s willing to just go get it.”
Haag, who has also been off to a strong start for the Magic, pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds to go with eight points.
Bechtold scored 12 points in the contest and dished out four assists. Zwack handed out a team-high six assists and Swanson scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds for the Magic, who moved back to .500 with the win.
Geyen, who said that Monti now needs to focus on eliminating turnovers (they average 25 per game) and getting more shots up, has overall been very pleased with the progress a young Magic team has already made.
“It’s been fun to see kids really step up and do some good things,” said Geyen. “Kids have been showing up willing and wanting to get better. I’m excited to see where they can get to by the end of the year.”
Monti, in the midst of a four-game road trip, is scheduled to play at Annandale at 7 p.m. tonight and at Delano at 7 p.m. Friday night. The Magic will be back home on Tuesday, Dec. 20, when they host Dassel-Cokato at 7:15 p.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]