This has almost become a tradition. Century and Minot will meet in the West Region boys basketball tournament with a lot on the line and they will battle line wolverines.
The two teams tangled Friday night with a state Class A tournament berth on the line and Century won an all-out, adrenaline-soaked struggle that went down to the final horn.
Kade Amundson, Century’s 6-foot-6 senior post, stripped Minot’s Alex Schimke in the backcourt in the game’s closing seconds and fired up a 3-point shot. The basketball cleared the twine as the Event Center horn sounded to give the Patriots a 68-65 victory.
With the win the top-seeded Patriots, now 21-2 with 17 straight wins, advance to tonight’s 7:45 championship game against Jamestown, a winner over St. Mary’s in Friday’s late semifinal.
More importantly, Century qualifies for next week’s state tournament in Fargo. It will be Century’s sixth straight trip to state and sixth regional championship game appearance in a row.
Century, trailing 65-63, tied the game on a rebound basket by 6-3 senior Josh Sipes with five seconds remaining.
Schimke, a 6-1 junior with 21 points and nine rebounds to his credit, started upcourt with the ball on the final possession of regulation play.
“(Cade) Feeney had amazing ball pressure and I went behind and scooped the ball out with a second or two left,” Amundson related. “… There was no time for me to dribble, so I just took the shot.”
Amundson fired from just outside the 3-point arc and found nothing but net.
The decisive double-team was just a derivative of experience and court sense, according to Amundson.
“It was just us knowing what to do,” he said.
Century coach Darin Mattern said the intensity of the game never let up.
“I feel very fortunate. We made one more play tonight. … It seemed like we could never get any separation,” he observed.
Only once did either of the teams lead by as many as eight points. Minot put together an 11-2 run to take a 48-40 lead with 10:16 to play when 6-3 senior Lofton Klabunde took the ball to the hole for a score.
Minot doggedly hung onto the lead until a Sipes 3-pointer gave CHS a 59-58 lead with 3:03 to play.
The Magicians pulled even at 61 with 1:55 on the clock as sophomore guard Jaxon Gunville converted a trey. Klabunde and Feeney traded baskets, leaving things knotted at 63 with :49 remaining.
Gunville scored from in close with :25 to play and Sipes responded with his put-back to make it 65-all with :05 to go.
Amundson said Friday’s struggle with Minot was taxing, but it was also 36 minutes of fun.
“We love these grinds with Minot, where each possession is a battle,” he said. “I know we love it, and I think they love it. It’s just amazing basketball.”
Mattern said competing against the Magicians always stretches a basketball team.
“That’s a program that’s won three consecutive state championships. They have an unbelievable belief in their ability to win,” the coach noted. “Tonight they were on a tremendous run of their own (11 wins in 12 games).”
In terms of shooting the game was a near standoff. Minot shot 48 percent to Century’s 45 percent. Led by Amundson and Sipes, who grabbed eight caroms, the Patriots had a 38-27 edge on the boards. Minot was charged with just six turnovers to Century’s 11.
Minot connected on seven 3-pointers to Century’s six.
Sipes took game scoring honors with 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting with two treys. Junior guard Treyton Mattern added 16 points, 10 in the first half. Amundson added 12 points and Feeney tacked on 11.
Schimke’s 21 paced Minot. Klabunde also reached double figures with 16.
Tough as the setback may have been for the Magicians to swallow, coach Dean Winczewski said his team has little time to fret over it. The fourth-seeded Magicians have to saddle up and play third-seeded Mandan in a 2:30 state qualifying game today.
“I know we’ll come out and battle. There’s no question in my mind,” Winczewski said.
Winczewski said the loss is especially distressing because victory was just a step away.
“We had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them, and that’s on us,” he said.
He said it’s almost inevitable that Century and Minot will cross paths at regional tournament time.
“We’re going to see them at some point,” he said. “The way our programs are right now we’re going to see each other.”