By: Jared Hines
Senior Calvin Schmitz’s tweet after the Monticello Magic boys basketball team defeated No. 3 Rocori in the Section 5AAA Semifinal game was liked by three of his teammates and his head coach Bridge Tusler, showing everyone that the Magic–even as the No. 7 seed in the Section–didn’t see themselves as the underdog. They didn’t see their regular season record of 5-13 as a true evaluation of who they were. They didn’t listen to the noise surrounding their chances of winning the section.
What they did do….was silence the haters.
The Magic punched their ticket to the MSHSL Class 3A State Tournament on Friday night with a 56-46 win over Delano. The Tigers were the No. 1 seeded team in Section 5AAA with who most people thought was the best player in the section in Trey Longstreet. Monticello played like the No. 1 seed most of the night, including huge performances on defense by Sam Valor and Wyatt Sawatzke to hold Longstreet to just nine points on the night.
Delano took an early 6-0 lead in the championship game before Valor got the Magic on the board. On the opposite end of the floor, Valor had one goal. Don’t let Longstreet score. The Magic senior was up in his grill, not allowing the future Northern State basketball player anywhere without a challenge. The Tigers tried setting screens, using isolation, and moving Longstreet off the ball but wherever he went, Valor was right there next to him. With just 6:30 left to play, the low-scoring affair had Delano up 13-8 and with 3:13 left in the first half, Gus Hangsleben made one-of-two free throws to put the Magic within two. The lead was cut down to one right before the half but a long heave at the buzzer banked in for the Tigers, giving them a 22-18 halftime lead.
The second half was magical.
Wyatt Sawatzke started the half with a 3-point show to bring that deficit back within one and on the next possession drove to the basket and was fouled, converting the shot in the process. Four minutes into the game, the team had completed three old-fashioned 3-point plays, putting them up 30-28. Junior Carson Kolles then had four straight points before the ball went back to Sawatzke for another lay-up.
After a couple of back-to-back timeouts, the Magic got back to work. Senior Gus Hangsleben once again controlled the rebounds on both sides of the floor, recording his second double-double in a row in the win. With 10:30 left to play, his rebound allowed him to go right back up with it, being fouled in the process and making both free throws–something the Magic players would tell you weren’t a strength of theirs this season.
With 7:40 to play, the Magic lead 43-39 and you could feel the energy picking up at Delano High School on both sides of the bleachers. The Magic student section got louder. The Delano fans cheered hard, trying to get the Tigers back in the game but it was no use. A couple more Kolles layups, another drive to the basket by Sawatzke, and a huge 3-point shot from Schmitz sealed the deal. The Magic led by 14 with 46 seconds left, ultimately defeating the No. 1 team in the Section by ten.
The state tournament berth is No. 11 in school history for the boys basketball program. The Magic have also been rumored to make history, becoming the first No. 7 ranked team in a section to reach the state tournament. The boys also won all three games on the road, something that usually has to never happen because of neutral sites in non-COVID times. The Magic will enter the state tournament with an 8-13 record, playing their best basketball in the last few weeks. Kolles led the way for Monticello with 26 points. Sawatzke had 13 while Hangsleben added 12, Schmitz with 3 and Valor with the opening basket.
The Class 3A MSHSL State Tournament bracket will be released on March 27 with the opening round dates and times still not set. The semifinal round will be played on April 8th and the Championship on April 10th, both at Target Center. The other Class 3A teams are Minnehaha, Richfield, DeLaSalle, Alexandria, Mankato West, Byron, and Hibbing.