BLUE EARTH - Blue Earth Area power forward Krista Hassing lofted 212 free throws during the 2011-12 basketball campaign.
The Bucs' 6-footer continued her ability to reach the charity stripe during Monday night's nonconference season-opener against the Granada-Huntley-East Chain Mustangs in Blue Earth.
Hassing sank an incredible 11 of 12 free throws, including the game-winning pair with 4.2 seconds remaining in regulation, to help the Bucs fend off the Mustangs' second-half comeback, 43-42.
BLOCKED — Blue Earth Area power forward Krista Hassing (back right) blocks a shot by Granada-Huntley-East Chain’s Anna Balcom (41) during season-opening nonconference basketball action Monday night in Blue Earth. The Bucs’ Whitney Pirsig (left) and Kaitlin Olsen watch the action. Photo by Leanna Becker
"Ever since the middle of last season, I've had confidence in her (Hassing) free-throw shooting," said Blue Earth Area mentor Al Cue, who earned the 100th victory of his prep basketball coaching career.
Hassing produced a game-high double-double performance of 17 points and 12 rebounds to complement a game-best five steals to help the Bucs salvage the one-point win.
Blue Earth Area capitalized on a 47-30 rebounding edge in conjunction with a 16-for-19 performance - 84 percent - from the charity stripe to narrowly offset GHEC's 18-for-49 overall shooting from the floor, including 4 of 9 from behind the arc.
In fact, point guard Rachael Sauck banked home a 3-pointer from the top of the key off an assist from Alex Stennes to transform a 41-39 deficit into a 42-41 Mustang lead with a minute remaining.
"I thought we made a nice comeback during the second half," said GHEC mentor Rick Uttech, whose lineup utilized 10-3 run midway through the final segment to erase Blue Earth Area's seven-point lead at halftime.
Down 30-26, GHEC freshman post player Rachel Shumski hit a runner through traffic off one of Sauck's three assists before Blue Earth Area countered via Jenna Stevermer's left-wing trifecta off a Ciarra Olson assist.
Anna Balcom sank a solo free throw before Amanda Cegelske distributed pinpoint passes to Sauck for a left-wing jumper and Shumski for a breakaway lay-in to inch the Mustangs within 33-31 with 11:39 remaining.
Stennes then snapped the nets on a 3-pointer off an assist from Mariah Jensen to swing a short-lived lead to GHEC at the 8:25 juncture.
Center Janessa Jahnke and Hassing then worked the paint to sink a pair of free throws each to restore Blue Earth Area's three-point lead.
Stennes and Cegelske then hit jumpers in the lane to sandwich Buc guard Taylor Grandgenett's pull-up 17-footer to keep the game at 1 before Stevermer's putback put the home team up 41-38 with four minutes to go.
Shumski scored 12 points and garnered three steals to top the Mustangs, while Cegelske produced a double-double of 10 points and a team-best 11 rebounds.
Stevermer netted 11 points for the Bucs, while Whitney Pirsig hauled down 10 rebounds.
Blue Earth Area (1-0) travels to New Ulm on Friday night, while Granada-Huntley-East Chain (0-1) hosts Madelia on Friday night at East Chain School.