Dakota Halvorson didn’t want to leave the game to chance. Sometimes the charity stripe isn’t so charitable.
Instead of running out the clock with free throws, the Minot High junior flipped in a pair of contested transition layups in the final minute to seal the No. 5 Magicians’ 69-62 win over fourth-ranked Grand Forks Red River on Friday at Magic City Campus.
After pushing Minot’s lead to 64-61, the 5-foot-8 Halvorson tipped away a Roughrider pass along the right sideline and zoomed the length of the floor before finishing with a left-handed reverse just outside of Red River star Chad Bartosh’s reach.
“I saw him coming, approaching and running down for the chasedown,” Halvorson said. “I didn’t want him to come and block me. The rim provides a shield, too. It’s hard for me, I’m so small. I can get blocked like that but if I use the rim like that I can put ‘er in easier.”
Halvorson finished with 11 points on 5 of 13 shooting – making 3 of 4 attempts in the final 2:45 – and six assists.
“Dakota’s two plays at the end were monsters,” Minot coach Dean Winczewski said. “Getting out, running and getting the first layup, and then getting a tip and a steal, those are hustle plays. He made a couple plays down the stretch that were game-changers.”
Halvorson’s heroics were made possible with a bit of good fortune. With Minot (5-1 overall, 3-1 West Region) clinging to a 62-61 lead, Red River missed a pair of open 3-pointers just outside the two-minute mark. The first drew iron and the second missed the basket completely.
The Roughriders (4-2, 4-1 East Region) converted just 4 of 23 attempts from beyond the arc, including a 1-for-10 outing before halftime.
“We had great help, which forced them to kick it out to the 3-point line,” Halvorson said. “It’s just better if they’re shooting 3s rather than layups.”
Following a Minot miss, Bartosh took Red River’s fifth and final chance to grab the lead. He posted 13 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, but missed a fadeaway from 12 feet out. Red River’s Jacob Robson snared the rebound, but misplaced a pass, leading to Halvorson’s first of two last-minute layups.
Red River had three offensive rebounds in the final two minutes and 21 for the game, much to the chagrin of Winczewski.
“Sometimes kids make shots,” Winczewski said, “and when they don’t you can’t give them second opportunities.”
Before the frantic final five minutes, Minot held a double-digit lead for most of the game.
A 13-2 run put the Magicians ahead by 17 with 10:30 to play, but Red River responded with 20 of the next 23 points to tie it at 58 with 5:10 remaining.
In the first half, Minot forced the Roughriders into 10 of their 16 turnovers with the aid of an effective full-court press. After a timeout 3:11 into the game, Minot posted 14 straight points for a 19-6 advantage and later stretched its lead to 16 points.
“We were rattled the first half,” Red River coach Jason Gregory said. “They are probably one of the best teams in the state defensively, if not the best. Our guys weren’t ready for it.”
Minot junior Nick Soltis posted 10 of his 15 points in the first half, making three shots from downtown.
“I’m really happy for Nick,” Winczewski said. “I’m proud of him. He had been struggling and tonight he came out and made shots.”
Junior forward Noah Bosh led the Magicians with 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting. He scored Minot’s first 11 points out of the intermission.
Since a loss on Dec. 12 at Bismarck, Minot has reeled off five straight wins and cracked the state media poll for the first time this year. A statement win over a ranked foe shows the Magicians’ progress, and potential.
“We can keep moving up the ladder,” Halvorson said. “That Bismarck loss proved that we’re not what we think we are. We can be good, but great teams learn from their mistakes and build every day harder at practice.”
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.