BLUE EARTH - Blue Earth Area committed only seven total turnovers and dictated a half-court pace to stay within striking distance of Class AA, No. 10-ranked Fairmont on Friday night.
That is, until junior sharpshooter Mitch Pfingsten erupted for all 15 of the visiting Cardinals' points with six minutes remaining in regulation in Blue Earth.
Pfingsten finished with a game-high double-double performance of 21 points and 12 rebounds to complement three assists to engineer the Cardinals' 62-48 South Central Conference basketball triumph over the Bucs.
FINGERTIP RELEASE — Fairmont’s Jay Ruen (35) releases a jumper between Blue Earth Area’s Brandyn Olsen (back left) and Quinn Huisman (41) during South Central Conference basketball action Friday night in Blue Earth. The Bucs’ Steven Plocker (53) and the Cardinals’ Josh Eversman (25) battle for rebounding space, while the Bucs’ Dallas Barslou looks on. Photo by Leanna Becker
Levi Becker snapped the nets on a key 3-pointer off a Pfingsten assist to extend Fairmont's first-half lead to 27-20 with 2:35 remaining before intermission.
Freshman guard Colin Squiers, however, countered with a trifecta off a Quinn Huisman assist to keep Blue Earth Area within four only 1 minute later.
Ryan Noll, who dished out three assists, hit a solo free throw for the Cardinals with 23 seconds left only to see Buc guard Dallas Barslou swoosh a buzzer-beating, pull-up jumper in the paint to carve the home team's deficit to 28-25.
"At halftime, we (coaching staff) told our guys that we had to reduce our turnovers in the second half. I thought we had too many empty possessions in the first half," Fairmont mentor Jared Thompson said. "We didn't win too many of those 50/50 hustle plays either."
The Cardinals took care of the basketball during the final 18 minutes, committing only three turnovers to match the Bucs in that statistical category.
Barslou, who finished with a team-best 14 points, drilled a right-corner jumper and a trifecta during the initial stages of the second half to inch Blue Earth Area within 32-30 before Levi Becker and Bryce Holm countered for Fairmont.
Becker muscled his way through traffic for a runner before feeding a slashing Holm for two of his seven points from the low post.
Noll and Pfingsten later spotted Nick Roggow and Josh Eversman for back-to-back baskets to extend the Cardinals' lead to 40-32 with 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
Isaac Darrington, who produced 11 points and seven rebounds coming off the Bucs' bench after missing the early part of the season due to a knee injury, later worked the low post to earn free throws before Pfingsten got the hot shooting hand going.
Pfingsten scooped home the first part of a traditional 3-point play before Darrington and Brandyn Olsen answered with a flawless screen-and-roll play.
Pfingsten then sandwiched Darrington's duck-under banker in the low post with a pair of baseline jumpers. The high-scoring Cardinal guard then delivered two more traditional 3-point plays to put the game out of reach.
Brandyn Olsen netted a double-double performance of 12 points and 10 rebounds to complement four assists for the Bucs, while Eversman delivered 13 critical points off the Cardinals' bench.
Fairmont (11-3, 4-0 SCC) plays host to Ellsworth at 7:45 p.m. Monday night at Cardinal Gym.
Blue Earth Area (5-5, 1-3) travels to Class AA, No. 2-ranked St. Peter on Monday night.
Ben Abel produced 13 points and four steals to help guide Fairmont to a 63-43 victory over Blue Earth Area during B-squad action Thursday.
Spencer Chirpich generated 12 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Cardinals, Parker Monsen and Kale Fritz each scored 10 points, while Nate Johnson added seven points.
Kellen Jacobs scored 11 points to top the Bucs.
Fairmont (8-3) hosts Ellsworth at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Martin County West 49, Granada-Huntley-East Chain 45 - The Mavericks had three players score in double figures as they snuck past the Mustangs for a 49-45 Valley Conference win on Friday night in East Chain.
Cordell Weber scored a game-high 14 points for MCW, while teammates Austin Krumwiede and Kyle Brolsma supplied 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Konnor Kristenson netted a double-double performance of 12 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Mustangs' offensive efforts.
Logan Pytleski added nine points, while Trent Stensland tallied seven for GHEC, who made 11 of 28 from inside the arc and 4 of 17 from downtown. The Mustangs went 11-for-16 from the charity stripe.
Dylan Petrowiak grabbed seven boards and doled out six assists for the Mustangs.
Martin County West (11-3, 6-1 Valley) hosts Cleveland in a 7:30 p.m. conference game on Monday night in Sherburn.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (3-4, 4-8 Valley) travels to Maple River for a 7:30 p.m. conference game in Mapleton on Tuesday night.
Truman/Martin Luther 81, Cleveland 66 - DaMarko Thomas scored a career-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds to pace the BluejayKnights to a 81-66 Valley Conference win over the Clippers on Friday night in Cleveland.
Cade Ekstrom generated a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five steals and three blocks in the win.
Sam Geistfeld also garnered a double-double performance of 10 points and 10 boards, while Alex Weihe neared the double-double standard with 10 points and eight rebounds for TML.
The BluejayKnights shot 30 of 55 from the floor and went 18-for-29 from the free throw line.
Tommy Kraft scored 28 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Clippers, while Josh Tlonsky generated 15 points.
Cleveland made 25-for-64 shots from the field, in addition to sinking 13 of 23 free throws in the contest.
Truman/Martin Luther (8-6, 4-3 Valley) hosts Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in a 7:30 p.m. conference game on Monday night in Truman.
Cleveland (6-7, 4-3 Valley) travels to Martin County West for a 7:30 p.m. conference game on Monday night in Sherburn.
Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire 43, North Union 32 - The Titans held the Warriors to just 16 points in each half to claim a 43-32 Corn Belt Conference victory on Friday night in Graettinger, Iowa.
Shane Mills led the Warriors' offensive effort, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven boards, while Colin Runksmeier tallied five bounds and three steals.
Kaleb Olson netted four ppoints and doled out two assists for North Union.
North Union (2-14, 2-4 Corn Belt) plays host to Clay Central-Everly in a 7:45 p.m. game on Tuesday in Armstrong.