Wide open field: Minot confident heading into West Region tourney

The St. Mary’s boys and Bismarck Century girls’ bodies of work were more than enough to garner the top seeds heading into today’s West Region basketball tournament.

But the third-ranked Saints and second-ranked Patriots won’t have the firepower to rest on their laurels during the three-day event at the Bismarck Civic Center.

Both clubs – combining for just three region losses – had their share of fits in regular-season title runs.

And Minot, which boasts the third-seeded boys and fourth-seeded girls, believes it has the means to knock them off.

“We’d love to play Century again,” said MHS girls coach Todd Magnuson, whose Majettes (9-9) open with fifth-seeded Mandan (10-9) at 3:45 p.m. today. “The girls are confident they can play with them.”

The ever-competitive boys region featured six capable teams before St. Mary’s asserted itself down the stretch. Century, Jamestown and Bismarck High led a top-heavy girls portion.

The fifth-ranked Minot boys (15-4), who open up with six-seeded Dickinson (10-9) at 8:15 tonight, split with St. Mary’s. The Majettes split with fourth-ranked Jamestown, a team that gave Century its only region blemish.

“It’s going to be real competitive,” Minot boys coach Dean Winczewski said. “You have to put together your best basketball of the year. The real prize is (the state tournament) but you obviously want to get that top seed.”

One game at a time for Magi

After sweeping Dickinson during the regular season, one couldn’t blame a Minot coach or player for peeking ahead to a possible semifinal with Century.

Considering the the Patriots were the only team in the region to sweep the Magicians -an occurrence that ultimately thwarted their title hopes -it’d be hard not to get a little presumptuous.

Winczewski’s focus, however, is solely on the Midgets.

“I’m not even thinking about (Century)”, Winczewski said. “The focus right now is Dickinson. They’re a very physical team that is capable of being dangerous. They’ve just been hurt by turnovers this year.”

Minot downed Dickinson 65-52 and 63-52 during the regular season. The Midgets are led by bullish 6-foot-6 forward Jordan Kreig who averages a near double-double (17.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg).

The Magicians, who took fourth at the West Region tournament a year ago, have done most of their damage by committee this season.

Seniors guards Brandon Van Dusen (12.1 ppg), Austin Frank (11.1 ppg) and Kyle Gerding (9.6) have spearheaded a balanced and experienced Minot squad that typically sees eight players reach the scoring column

Ranked as high as No. 2 in the polls this season, Minot was atop the region standings the bulk of the year before dropping two of its last three games to Century and St. Mary’s.

Minot’s last West Region tournament champinship came in 2006.

Majettes at full strength

Coming into the season, Magnuson thought his inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears sqaud was-on paper, anyway-the fifth-best team in the region.

The Majettes surprised the fifth-year coach by holding on to the fourth slot.

Without a full deck, even.

He was without sophomore guard Sierra Duttenhefer (ACL injury) for half the year and, at season’s end, was void of budding freshman Cassie Askvig (ankle injury).

He’ll have both of them tonight when the Majettes open up with Mandan, a team it swept during the regular season by scores of 47-39 and 44-47.

“We’ve really missed (Askvig) the last few games,” Magnuson said. “We could really use her length and scoring ability.”

Minot has showed that it can play up to its opponents with a win against fourth-ranked Jamestown and an aberrant sweep of the Braves. It’s also split with the bottom teams in St. Mary’s and Turtle Mountain.

“I think our good games have outweighed our bad games,” Magnuson said.

Mandan, a former Class A power hit hard by graduation, is led by post Courtney Goetz (13 ppg, 6 rpg).

“You know what they say about beating a team three times,” Magnuson said. “It’s pretty hard.”

Senior Loni Bryantt is the lone Majette to average double figures at 10.5 points a night.

The winner will face take on the victor from the Century-Turtle Mountain game.

A short-handed Minot fell to 60-52 Century, the 2012 state champion, in their last meeting. Askvig went down early in that game.

“It would be interesting to see how we stack up against them when we’re healthy,” Magnuson said of Century.