A Senior Night to remember

Minot High senior Ashley Gathman really outdid herself Tuesday night.

The Majettes’ setter needed only three assists to surpass 1,000 for her career.

Instead, she tallied a match-high 39 helpers in MHS’ 3-0 Senior Night sweep of Williston. Her 13 assists per set marked her best performance of the year – and it came in her final outing at Magic City Campus.

“To have such great people behind you for it,” Gathman said, “it means so much.”

A three-year starter, Gathman has been a mainstay on varsity since her freshman season. MHS coach Ellen Jebens said the milestone is a testament to Gathman’s longevity and desire to improve. She’s seen the court better each year.

“She’s probably one of the hardest-working kids we have,” Jebens said. “She’s a co-captain, a leader on the floor. She has her hands on every rally and she’s just a workhorse.”

Gathman posted her team-best seventh double-double in the win over the Coyotes with 12 digs.

Jebens informed Gathman prior to the match that she would likely record her grand assist early in the match. Assist No. 1,000 came on an outside set to junior pin hitter Kaitlyn Stenberg.

“It’s crazy,” Gathman said. “You never think you’re going to get there, and then when you do, it’s just amazing.”

MHS (14-19) is idle until Nov. 14, when the sixth-seeded Majettes open the West Region tournament in Jamestown against No. 3 seed St. Mary’s.

The Saints (20-9) swept both meetings with MHS this year and have won nine of their past 10 matches – including five straight – with their lone loss coming against top-seeded Jamestown.

The Majettes’ win over Williston broke a string of four consecutive regular-season losses.

“Going into the playoffs, it’s really nice to go in on a positive note, especially our last home game, Senior night,” Jebens said. “It meant a lot to us.”

Closing in on West Fargo

They’re getting closer.

Little by little the Minot High girls swimming and diving team has made up ground on East Region power West Fargo.

The Majettes placed second in a field of nine teams Saturday at the Jamestown Invitational, finishing with 496 points to West Fargo’s 505.

MHS made crucial strides in two meets against the Packers since the Bismarck Invite on Sept. 14, when West Fargo blew out the field.

“It started out where we were about 40 points behind and then cut it to 25 (at the Fargo Davies Invitational) and then this last meet we were down to nine points,” MHS coach Dan Hinton said. “We were still without one swimmer, we still had one or two girls that aren’t 100 percent with their health. So things are looking up.”

Before MHS’ final meeting with West Fargo – at the state meet Nov. 15 and 16 in Grand Forks – they have one last test.

The Majettes travel to Jamestown on Saturday for the West Region meet, which begins at 10 a.m.

“We’re ready for it, all of us are ready,” junior McKenna Brown said. “We’ve been training so hard for this. I think we have a very good chance of winning this year.”

Hinton went a step further.

“Expectations are that we bring that WDA title back to Minot,” he said.

Century is the defending champion, and despite an extremely young roster, has made up ground on MHS in recent weeks, losing a home dual on Oct. 29 by just nine points.

The Majettes will depend on Brown, sophomore Emily Hamel and junior Francesca Walker-Rozo to carry much of the load as they try to stave off the Patriots.

“I know they want to hang on to that title,” Hinton said of Century. “It’s a pretty good title to hang on to because Minot’s won so many (over the years). They want to keep it away from us, and I don’t blame them.”

Little man amassing big yardage

Minot High senior Tre Kinchen stands 5 feet, 8 inches tall. Soaking wet, he might crack 140 pounds if he’s lucky.

His dirty, dirty mustache (he calls it his “playoff ‘stache”) is the only trace of facial hair on his baby-faced visage.

He hardly possesses the physique and look of the prototypical top Class AAA wideout.

But he’s quick, elusive and leads the No. 2 Magicians (9-1) with 617 receiving yards.

And he may rank first in that category statewide. (West Region individual statistics are unkept, and Kinchen has amassed more receiving yards than all East Region players.)

Kinchen has recorded more than half of his output by posting 100-yard outings in each of the Magicians’ past three games – something he says is a testament to the entire MHS receiving corps.

“(Defenses) key in on one person and that helps other players through the progression of the season,” Kinchen said. “They’ll key in on Kimani (Benjamin) a lot and that helps me get open.”

The 6-2, 186-pound Benjamin is perhaps the Magicians’ most athletic receiving target, and certainly has the best leaping ability.

Opposing secondaries have made shutting down Benjamin a priority as of late.

Against MHS’ past three opponents – Century, Bismarck High and Grand Forks Red River – Benjamin has been held to a combined 10 receptions and 116 yards.

Meanwhile, Kinchen has put up big numbers in those games, piling up 364 yards on 17 catches.

A state track qualifier in the 4×400 relay, Kinchen possesses the speed to elude tacklers in space.

He outran the Red River defense during a 61-yard touchdown catch – one of his two scores – in the Magicians’ 48-20 quarterfinal win Friday.

“Tre has shown the ability to create big plays after the catch,” MHS coach Barry Holmen said. “He’s a catch-and-run-with-it-after-the-catch type of player. He’s a small, little scatback that’s hard to tackle one-on-one. Small, quick and is very good at changing directions, very elusive in the open field.”

The Magi passing game evolves bit by bit with each additional game sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske gets under his belt.

With 33 receptions this year, Kinchen has quickly become Bolinske’s favorite target.

“The development of Tre and him blossoming certainly has a lot to do with our quarterback improving over the course of the year,” Holmen said. “As Ben has improved, I think all our receivers have got more possibilities.”

Benjamin ailing, but cleared to play

Benjamin injured his elbow during his lone reception against Grand Forks Red River last Friday. Holmen termed it as a “stinger.”

Benjamin has practiced all week, and Holmen indicated the injury should not affect Benjamin on Friday in the Magicians’ Class AAA state semifinal game against Fargo South at the Fargodome.

“I think it scared him a little bit,” Holmen said. “He still has a bit of numbness in there, but he’s been cleared to practice and play and we think he’ll be fine by Friday.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.