Minot High junior McKale Duttenhefer is making up for lost time.
Last December, her sophomore campaign barely got started before it came to a screeching halt. She tore the ACL in her right knee during the Majettes basketball team's season opener.
On Saturday, five days shy of her injury anniversary, Duttenhefer reintroduced herself by torching Fargo North for a game-high 26 points in Minot's 78-67 season-opening road win.
"For a young lady that sat out the whole year last year, she was just chomping at the bit to play in a real live game," Minot coach Todd Magnuson said. "We've had a lot of practice with her, she played a lot of open gym, but to get her into a game and shoot the way she shot the ball, it was just great to watch McKale play. I think that was a great opening night for her."
The Majettes take the road today for a 6 p.m. matchup at Bismarck High (0-0). Both teams received votes in the state media poll, but are outside of the top five.
Duttenhefer said watching from the sideline was tormenting, especially since she received varsity minutes as a freshman and eighth-grader. But she absorbed a bit of wisdom, too. Wisdom that's oft-quoted, but few players understand.
"I guess I just realized that you have to take a game and a practice like it's your last game," Duttenhefer said, "so just play as hard as you can."
Her twin sister, Sierra Duttenhefer, is one of the few who can comprehend that advice. She returned in mid-January from an identical ACL tear and is now back to full strength.
Sierra Duttenhefer joked about the twin telepathy she has with her sister on the court. Sure, some of it is the result of splitting from the same zygote. The rest developed from competing on-court together since kindergarten. Except for last year.
In between workouts and rehab treatments, they spent the offseason discussing how special sharing the hardwood again would be.
"The whole summer we talked about it and we set goals for ourselves," Sierra Duttenhefer said. "We want to make it back to the state tournament is our big goal."
McKale Duttenhefer posted the big numbers against North, but acknowledges there are basically two of her on the floor.
Both are streaky shooters that like to slash to the basket. And they like to rely on each other.
"We're basically the same," McKale Duttenhefer said. "(She is) basically my backup plan."
Said Sierra Duttenhefer: "I can know that if I am cold, if I pass the ball to her, we have such a connection that when I do get her the ball, you can guarantee it's (going) in."
Sierra Duttenhefer posted eight points per game last season, but tallied only three against North.
Magnuson said not to worry. When one's shooting goes cold, the other is locked in. And when they're both on hot streaks, look out.
"I told her, 'Sierra, it wasn't your night to score. It was your sister's. Maybe Thursday night's gonna be your night to score,' " Magnuson said. "Hopefully Sierra comes alive against Bismarck and McKale's still shooting the ball hot so we can have those two shooting together."
Balance boosts points for Magi
First team to 50 points wins, right?
The defensive-minded Minot High boys basketball team burned Fargo North for 87 points Saturday in both team's season opener.
Magicians coach Dean Winczewski attributed his squad's massive offensive output to balance and unselfish play.
"When you share the ball and you find open men, the shots get a lot easier," he said. "Our kids did a good job of making sure that everybody got their opportunities."
Junior guard Nick Soltis made the most of his first crack at varsity minutes, tallying a game-high 17 points on 6 of 9 from the field and 3 of 3 at the charity stripe.
"It was a matter that kids found him, gave him opportunities right off the bat," Winczewski said. "We did a good job sharing the ball. ... He made the shots that he had and he took advantage of the opportunities that were there. It was a good place for him to start."
Juniors Noah Bosh and Dakota Halvorson posted 15 points apiece, while Kolton Larson (12) and Colter Hustad (10) also finished in double figures.
While pleased with Soltis' varsity debut, Winczewski was cautious to heap any star-in-the-making sort of praise on his reserve guard.
"We feel confident in any of the nine or 10 guys, whatever we'll trot out there per night," Winczewski said. "The kids were smart enough to understand who's making shots at the time and continuing to get them the ball when they're shooting the ball well."
The Magicians hope their balance can propel them past Bismarck High today at 7:45 p.m., when they meet for the host Demons' season opener.
Bismarck knocked off Minot 65-59 in a state-qualifying game at the West Region tournament in March, ending the Magicians' season. All-region selection Taylor Schafer led the Demons with 22 points in that contest and averaged 13.3 per game last year. Winczewski said he expects Bismarck to be physical and try to "dominate the game through rebounding."
"They're a team that guards really, really well," he said. "They have an all-state type perimeter player - Taylor Schaffer is a really talented young man. They've got some other kids to go with him on the outside.
"It's just a matter of being sound fundamentally on defense and keeping them off the glass."
Big test awaits MHS wrestling
The Minot High wrestling team - ranked 18th out of 18 teams in the coaches poll - has recorded minor upsets with road wins over No. 16 Williston and No. 13 Jamestown after dropping a 47-44 decision to No. 4 Dickinson to open the season.
The Magicians (2-1) finished third at the Jamestown Invite on Saturday, besting No. 11 Fargo South. Eighth-grader Brody Armstrong (105 pounds), senior Isaiah Crowe (285) and freshman Tyler Strandberg (120) won their divisions.
Minot will get a stiff test at home today with a 7:30 p.m. dual against third-ranked Century (2-0).
The lone ranked matchup of the night will feature Armstrong (No. 5) and Mason Schulz (No. 2) at 105 pounds.
Majettes move up standings, leaderboard
The Minot High girls hockey hockey team moved up the state standings and the individual scoring leaderboard Tuesday night.
The Majettes (4-1) scored four unanswered goals at Williston to win 4-2. The comeback knotted Minot in a tie for second place with the Coyotes and Bismarck High with 12 points. Despite being just 3-3, Fargo North leads the state with 15 points after earning a pair of six-point wins.
Senior forward Makaila Anderson had a goal and an assist to push her season total to 14 points (six goals, eight assists). She is tied with West Fargo's Janey Sandoval and Williston's Sam Miller for the state lead.
Meanwhile, senior forward Alaynee Thompson and sophomore Makinzy MacIver lead the state in goals with nine and eight, respectively.
The Majettes host Dickinson (2-4 overall, 1-4 state) on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at Maysa Arena.
Boys hockey on hot streak
It may not seem like it -it's been a full week since the Minot High boys hockey team recorded its first shutout of the year with a 2-0 win at Century - but the Magicians are on a three-game winning streak.
Minot (3-2 overall, 3-0 West Region) returns to the ice at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Dickinson (2-2, 1-2).
The Magicians trail only Bismarck High (4-0, 4-0) in the region standing. They play the Demons on Dec. 20.
Senior Quinn Fuchs (five goals, eight assists) and junior Matt Flom (seven goals, six assists) are tied for fourth in the state with 13 points. Flom's seven lamp-lighters tie him for third in goals.
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.