Unfortunately for the Magic boys basketball team, when they took on Big Lake last Saturday they got the same results they received in the first two matchups, a loss. Even more unfortunately, the stakes were higher this time.
When the Hornets beat Monti 71-49 Saturday it was for a chance to play in the Section 5AAA Championship game. The loss ends Monti’s season.
Big Lake entered as the No. 1 seed and played the part well, taking an early lead and holding it throughout the contest against the No. 4 Magic at Halenbeck Hall in St. Cloud.
Monti, the defending section champs, used a run to cut the deficit to seven in the second half but they wouldn’t be able to get any closer.
Magic Coach Jason Schmidt said he thought the Magic gave fantastic effort, but they simply seemed to run out of extra emotion when it came time to try and finish the second half rally.
“That’s where you either gotta close the deal and get there, or you’re going to be in trouble,” said Schmidt, about when Monti cut the deficit to seven. “We couldn’t close the deal.”
Besides lacking the extra juice they may have needed to pull the upset, the Magic just didn’t have their best shooting night.
Monti shot 19 for 54 from the field during the game, a 35 percent clip. The Magic were just 3 of 15 from downtown.
“We had great looks all night,” said Schmidt. “We just couldn’t hit a shot.”
The Magic coach was quick to give credit to Big Lake, who will play Thursday in the section championship.
“They’re really efficient,” he said. “And they just work their butts off.”
Schmidt added that Big Lake’s depth in the post gave Monti some troubles on the defensive end, plus they’re very effective with their half-court offense.
“With their screen and roll game, they know how to expose you,” he said.
Monti was led in the game by junior Matt Todd. The guard finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists to just one turnover.
“He played as well as his numbers show,” said Schmidt. “He was fantastic.”
Rezi Useh was second-high for Monticello with 10 points, despite battling foul trouble. Senior Gabe Severson finished with five points in the game, while Austin Puppe and Carson Sawatzke both added four to round out Monti’s scoring.
Monti will graduate two contributing seniors, both starters, in Severson and Carter Hangsleben this summer. They will bring back the rest of the core for next season. Schmidt said it’s a group that needs to become dedicated to the weight room. If they can do that, he believes the immediate future is bright.
“We had growth this year,” he said. “Our kids busted their butts all year long.”
“You can’t ask for more than that,” he added. “That’s why I’m encouraged.”
Monti 57, Willmar 43
Monti advanced to the semifinal round by avenging an early-season loss against Willmar with a convincing win last Tuesday night.
The Magic took a big early lead at 12-3 before Willmar came back to take a lead at 20-19. The game stayed close until six minutes had gone by in the second half when Sawatzke and Todd combined for a 7-0 run to put Monti in front 38-29. The Magic wouldn’t look back from there.
While offense came and went on the night, the defense was locked in for the full 36 minutes. Monti allowed just 20 first half points, followed by only 23 in the second half.
“I thought we played great defense,” said Todd, after the game. “That’s what you have to do in the playoffs.”
Schmidt said the second-half run to extend the lead to nine, and eventually to double-digits, was certainly the key to the game.
“You gotta create that separation,” he said. “When you get to double digits late in the second half in a game where you’re playing great defense, it feels like a 20 point lead.”
Todd led Monti with 25 points in the contest, and Rezi Useh joined him in double figures with 15 points. Tommy Blackstone added eight points for Monticello.
Hangsleben pulled down eight rebounds in the game, including four on the offensive end. Todd grabbed seven rebounds and picked up a team-best four steals in the victory.
Monti finishes the season with a record of 12-16.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]