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Top seeds fall in MAC

Potter-Dix topples previously unbeaten Minatare

 

Stephen McKay

Cameron Purcell tries to swat the ball away from Dominic Longoria.

The last time the Minatare Indians lost a game prior to the semi-final of the MAC tournament Thursday night was in last season's sub districts. Potter-Dix did the damage on that occasion.

For the Coyotes it was deja vu, all over again. Their 61-53 upset of the Indians at Sidney Middle School stopped Minatare's (9-1) nine game winning streak. The win earns the Coyotes (7-5) the right to meet local nemisis Leyton in the MAC finals on Friday.

The Leyton Warriors punched their ticket to the final game with a 53-36 win over Garden County in the MAC's other semifinal battle.

Though the Coyotes landed the first big blow of the contest by jumping out to a 16-2 lead before the first quarter was through, the Indians counter punched with an 11-2 run to finish the frame.

Little seemed to go wrong for Potter-Dix in the early minutes. Trevor Harms hit a turn-around jumper and Tyler Magninie pushed one through for a 4-0 lead.

While Minatare responded with a pair of free throws - on two separate trips to the line - the Coyotes turned it on, reeling off 12 straight points. The baskets came from multiple sources including Jake Johnson twice, Magninie, Harms and Bryant Knigge.

Magninie and Knigge's net flexers came from beyond the bend.

"All week long we talked about how we wanted to come out strong in the first quarter," said Knigge. "They're a good team though. They're good guys and don't do a lot of talking, they just play hard."

With a drive past the hoop and an acrobatic turn of direction, Knigge scored the only other basket for the Coyotes after the early run. Minatare's talented guard Yovan Perez helped iginite an Indians rally to close their first-quarter gap to 18-13.

Javier Guerrero narrowed the difference even further when he opened the second frame with a three pointer. But with just 2 points now separating the adversaries, Magninie banked home a three of his own to start a 9-0 Coyotes run.

Magninie also finished the run with a steal in the defensive zone which he converted for two at the other end.

"We haven't played them yet this year, but we know them from last year. They haven't changed that much," said Magninie. "Nothing scares us. We believe we can play with anybody."

But Minatare doesn't scare easily, either. In a game of streaks, the Indians again fought back from a double-digit deficit. After the Coyotes 9 unanswered points, Minatare closed the gap to 4. Again the Indians fell back, crawled to within three and fell back again before coming to within a pair with 1:11 left in the half. The Coyotes gave themselves a little breathing room when Magninie added a duece on a feed from Knigge just before the buzzer.

Five straight points to open the second half handed Minatare its first and only lead of the game. Javier Guerrero drained a three pointer 18 seconds in and was followed by a driving layup by Perez.

After two minutes of offensive silence from both sides, the Coyotes suddenly erupted for 8 points in a 60-second span to reestablish control. The job was accomplished on two buckets from Harms and one each from Knigge and Jake Johnson.

Beyond the challenges of defending against the shooting touch of Magninie and Knigge, Harms, at 6-6, also proved a difficult challenge for the Indians defense.

"Coach Lance (Juelfs) has been working with me a lot on my post game, defense and foot work," said Harms. "I feel like it's been a big help to me and I feel more and more confident with every game."

The Indians managed to get within 6 points in the final quarter but Potter-Dix seemed to have all the answers when challenged. The Coyotes held a 9-point lead in the final minute when a technical foul on the Minatare bench ended their fading hopes.

Magninie led the offensive charge for the Coyotes with 17 points while Knigge was close behind with 16. Harms finished in double figures, too, with 12 points and Johnson added 8. Knigge and Harms aided the offensive effort with 3 assists apiece.

Johnson picked off 7 rebounds and Harms 4. Johnson also made 6 steals.

"I feel we're playing better than we were at the beginning of the season," said Potter-Dix Head Coach Chad Miller. "We respected MInatare. Anytime a team wins nine straight games that will get your attention."

The last time the Coyotes lost a game was to the Leyton Warriors four games ago.

Prior to their present three-game winning streak, the Coyotes were dismissed by the Warriors 63-40 in Potter on Jan. 17. Exactly one month prior the Warriors toppled the Coyotes in Dalton by a 47-34 count.

Potter-Dix's attempt at revenge will come Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. at Sidney Middle School. Minatare and Garden County will do battle for third place at 3 p.m.

 

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