Majettes knock off No. 2 West Fargo in state quarterfinal
Todd Magnuson hardly slept Wednesday night. The Minot High girls basketball coach was up well before the crack of dawn, trying to do something – anything – to keep his mind off the Majettes’ impending Class A state quarterfinal game. He cleaned and organized his house, even vacuumed to help his wife with the household chores. Anything to calm his nerves before his team’s first state tournament game in 24 months.
After Minot knocked off second-ranked West Fargo 62-59 on Thursday afternoon at the Minot Municipal Auditorium, he anticipates a full night of slumber. The Majettes advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2001 and will take on No. 1 Bismarck at 1 p.m. today at the Minot State Dome.
“I’m going to sleep good tonight,” Magnuson said. “The kids are really pumped, they want to play Bismarck again. We know we’ve got a tough game tomorrow ahead of us.”
The Majettes (15-8) dealt West Fargo its third loss in five games, dropping the Packers’ record to 20-3. Minot, the West Region No. 3 seed, normally relies heavily on sophomore forward Cassie Askvig, but needed a balanced effort to pull off the upset over the East Region’s second seed. Six Majettes tallied six points or more, including Sierra Duttenhefer (16), Brooke Suko (13) and Askvig (11) in double figures.
Suko had 10 points in the first half to help Minot stake a 33-28 halftime lead.
The Packers scored the first five points out of the break to pull even before the Majettes answered with eight straight of their own for a 41-33 advantage. West Fargo didn’t close any closer than four until Cassidy Thorson banked home a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
Each time the Packers tried to make a run, Minot seemed to drill a trey to alter the momentum. The Majettes went 10-for-31 from downtown.
“You gotta give them credit, they hit some big 3-pointers,” West Fargo coach Barb Metcalf said. “You live and die by the 3, and today they lived by it.
“Unfortunately for us, we shot 29 percent and in a close ballgame like this, you just can’t shoot under 30 percent and really expect to win.”
Minot limited the Packers to 18-of-63 shooting (28.6 percent), helping eliminate the impact of West Fargo’s 17-7 advantage on the offensive glass. The Majettes made 20 of 52 shots (38.5 percent), led by Sierra Duttenhefer’s 5-for-9 outing and Suko’s 4-for-9 performance.
“When it’s a slim margin like that, the team that shoots a little better is going to come out on top,” Metcalf said.
“They’re kind of fun to watch as far as penetrating and hitting those 3-pointers,” she added.
Minot opened with an 8-2 lead, but West Fargo later strung together eight straight points and held a 19-13 advantage 8:01 before halftime. Askvig, who picked up her second foul with 10:26 left in the half, rode the bench during that stretch. The Packers hammered Minot on the glass with Askvig out, so Magnuson sent her back in.
“(I went in) right after the eight-minute mark. (Magnuson) said, ‘You have to go in and be smart. Just play hard, but be smart,’ because down the stretch we needed everyone,” Askvig said.
With Askvig cautiously in for the rest of the half, the Majettes scored 20 of the final 29 points before the break.
“She makes a world of difference when she’s on the floor,” Magnuson said of Askvig. “The kids are more comfortable, they know they have a rebounder inside.”
Askvig finished with nine rebounds, while junior point guard Sophie Bengosn and Sierra Duttenhefer had seven boards apiece. West Fargo outrebounded Minot 45-35, but the Majettes shot well enough for it to be problematic.
“We talked about that before the game, how huge rebounding was going to be,” Askvig said. “It was super important and we knew that to win the game, we had to rebound.”
Cassidy Thorson paced the Packers with 17 points and Cassidy Thorson added 12. Senior center Cassidy Gustafson made just 4 of 15 shots, but finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double.
West Fargo will face Valley City at 4 p.m. today at the Aud.
Now, the Majettes get their first state semifinal in 13 years and the first of Magnuson’s six-year tenure. Bismarck swept Minot in the regular season, the second result a narrow 71-66 victory at Magic City Campus. The Demons are similar to West Fargo, but much quicker and with less of an inside presence. They’ll press and switch up defenses, a formula that’s allowed them to win 21 of 23 games.
“We know what Bismarck’s going to throw at us, we knew what they’re going to do,” Magnuson said. “We’ve got to be ready for everything tomorrow.”
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.