The slipper didn’t fit
The dominating defense that vaulted Minot High into the Class A state championship game appeared in full effect Saturday night. But the high-octane 3-point shooting that had accompanied it during upsets of No. 2 West Fargo and No. 1 Bismarck on Thursday and Friday withered away.
The unranked Majettes missed 25 of 30 attempts from long range as their magical run finally ended in a 53-29 loss to No. 3 Fargo Shanley at the Minot State Dome.
Minot fell to 1-4 all time in state championship games, with its lone title coming in 1978.
“As the saying goes, you live by the 3 and die by the 3. We died by the 3-pointer today,” Minot coach Todd Magnuson said.
For the fourth straight contest, the Majettes (16-10) held their opponent to below 30 percent from the field. Shanley (23-2) converted 16 of 56 field goal attempts (28.6 percent) and went 11:21 without a field goal during one stretch in the first half. But Minot shot a hapless 22.4 percent, scoring just three baskets and nine total points in the second frame after trailing just 21-20 at halftime.
“Give credit to Minot, they made us rush shots, they played physical on us,” Shanley coach Tim Jacobson said. “You rush shots because you think about other things like contact.”
Sophomore guard Sarah Jacobson carried Shanley with 28 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Deacons, who ended a 17-year titleless drought, missed 17 of their first 18 shots as Minot hopped out to a 12-4 lead. Shanley junior forward Alivia Fraase knocked down a baseline jumper 5:21 before halftime to end the Deacons’ nightmarish offensive start. Sophomore forward Cassie Askvig hiked the Majette advantage to 15-6 with a triple, much to the delight of the hometown squad’s raucous crowd. But Fraase’s bucket had already opened the floodgates.
“The nerves were really high at the beginning,” said Fraase, who had eight points and 10 boards. “We’re not really used to this atmosphere at all. I think as soon as we started getting into the flow of things, it kind of just fell into place.”
In a 98-second span, Shanley sophomore Lauren Rotunda drilled a trey from the left wing, Fraase drained two straight-on 3s and Jacobson added a triple and two free throws. The 13-0 run took the air out of the mostly maroon-and-gold arena and gave Shanley its first lead of the game. Minot junior wing Brooke Suko answered with a personal 5-0 run, but Jacobson’s leaning jumper from the right wing with 2.1 seconds left sent the Deacons into halftime leading by one.
The Majettes couldn’t solve Shanley’s 2-3 matchup zone, shooting 25.9 percent in the first half.
“Defensively, we were able to keep them down,” Tim Jacobson said. “My goal was to get to halftime (unscathed) so we could talk about (our offensive struggles).”
Out of the break, Rotunda, Jacobson and sophomore guard Ellen Erie knocked down 3-point baskets as the Deacons tallied the first nine points and 20 of the first 23. Shanley made 5 of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the second half.
“You start to hit a couple shots and things start to loosen up,” Tim Jacobson said. “The press started working better. I just thought the girls played a real smart game in the second half.”
Minot continued to have fits with Shanley’s aggressive 2-3 look. The Majettes resorted to deep 3s and rushed jumpers at the end of the shot clock, rarely able to get open looks. After the intermission, Minot converted 3 of 22 field goals and 1 of 12 from downtown.
“They knew exactly how we were going to play things,” Magnuson said. “We tried to make adjustments at halftime, but my girls just didn’t do the things we asked of them.
“I think that’s attributed to being of a young age and the spotlight. It was kind of overwhelming for them at times.”
Shanley extended its lead to 26 points before sophomore Annika Arnold’s old-fashioned 3-point play ended Minot’s seven-minute scoring drought.
Askvig never got going, making 2 of 11 shots and finishing with five points and eight rebounds. Suko led the Majettes with eight points.
Askvig and teammate Sierra Duttenhefer were named to the all-tournament team, as were Fraase and Rotunda, who – with 10 points – was the game’s only double-figure scorer besides Jacobson. Jacobson was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
The Majettes’ second-place finish is their best since 2001, when they lost to Fargo North. Starting guard Jayden Moum is Minot’s lone senior.
“Hopefully this is a little fire in their belly for next year,” Magnuson said. “Coming back, we’ll try to get back to the state A and maybe get back to the championship game and win it next year.”
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.