ST. PAUL - Just 14 hours after stepping off the court at Target Center, the Fairmont boys basketball team was back in action again on Saturday, this time across the river in St. Paul, facing the No. 4-seed Caledonia Warriors in the Class AA third-place game.
The Warriors (29-3) took the lead early in the game and never relenquished it, capturing the 79-65 victory for third-place honors.
"I think one of the hardest parts about the game was trying to get the guys mentally prepared," said Caledonia head coach Josh Diersen. "Each team and player hopes to play for a state title, but even though we lost [in the semifinals] we still had to come back and play a tough team today."
BATTLING THROUGH — Fairmont seniors Luke Peterson (15) and Nick Roggow go up to block Caledonia sophomore Colten Lampert (11) during Class AA State Tournament third-place basketball action on Saturday at the Ganglehoff Center on the Concordia-St. Paul University campus. Fairmont seniors Josh Eversman (left), Luke Becker (5) and Jay Ruen (35) look for the rebound, along with Caledonia’s Kyle Sorenson (second from left). (Photo by Leanna Becker)
The Cardinals captured fourth place and finished the season with a record-breaking win total of 25 to go along with six losses.
"We were nervous going into the game, just because it was a short turn-around time of 14 hours. We didn't know how that might affect the guys," said Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson. "We just hoped to compete from beginning to end."
Senior Josh Eversman, who scored 14 points in the game, sank a jumper from the wing to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.
Then the Warriors took a 6-3 lead with a pair of layups by West Spier. They stretched it out to a nine-point 14-5 advantage 5:44 into the game.
Spier then capitalized on the Warriors' full-court pressure, scoring on a layup before pocketing a steal and driving to the hoop for the score to make it 6-3.
Eversman responded with the second of his four first-half baskets to make it a one-point game.
Kyle Sorenson, a Caledonia junior, caught a pass from Austin Bauer for the quick two and was fouled, converting the three-point play to go ahead 9-5, 3:17 into the game.
The teams traded possessions, but both came up empty, before Warrior sophomore Colton Lampert, who scored 18 points, twisted his way through the lane and banked a shot up and in to make it 11-5.
Caledonia eighth-grader Owen King then drained his lone basket of the game, sinking a 3 from the corner to go ahead 14-5.
Eversman found an answer for the Cardinals, sinking a shot from the wing to make it 14-7 before Nick Roggow caught a Mitch Pfingsten pass and converted it into a layup to cut the lead to five.
With six minutes left in the opening half, the Warriors again stretched their lead, but Fairmont came back, making it a four-point game with under two minutes left.
"I thought that our guys did a good job competing the whole game," said Thompson. "They got a lead, and they stretched it out a little, but we'd reel it back in and get close. If we got some shots to fall early in the first half, it maybe could've been a little different, but the kids battled hard."
Fairmont struggled gaining offensive mometum in the first half, making just 9 of 25 shots.
Lampert picked off an errant Fairmont pass on the opposite end of the floor, driving the length of the court and sinking the layup to make it 21-14.
Roggow, who finished with six points, answered on the other end, catching an Eversman pass and converting to two points with a layup.
Lampert raced back down the floor with the inbounds pass and was fouled on the layup attempt, swishing both freethrows to go ahead 23-16.
Fairmont had a pair of chances to cut into the Caledonia lead, but couldn't get the shots to fall.
Spier, who was one of four Warriors in double digits and finished with 16 points, cashed in on a quick outlet pass from Bauer for a layup to extend the lead to 25-16.
Taylor Beebe then swished two free throws on the ensuing Fairmont possession for his lone points of the game to cut the lead down to seven.
After Spier scored on another layup to make it 27-18 for the Warriors, Pfingsten fired a shot off the glass to make it 27-20 with 2:20 left before half.Eversman, who was named to the All-Tournament team, cut the Warrior lead down to four points, with just under two minutes to play before the break, swishing a 3 from the wing.
Unfortunately, the Warriors answered, first with Spier converting one of his two free-throw attempts, before Sorenson banked home a layup to take the 30-23 lead going into the half.
Sorenson finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Bauer topped the Warrior offense with 21 points, including four 3s.
Jay Ruen, who scored in double figures in each of the state tournament games, tallied 15 points and a team-leading eight rebounds for the Cardinals in the final game.
Luke Becker swished three 3s for nine points for Fairmont.
Pfingsten scored a team-leading 16 points in the game. He joined Eversman in being named to the Class AA All-Tournament team.
Sorenson 4-6 10-11 18, Bauer 7-14 3-4 21, Nord 1-5 0-0 3, Spier 6-9 4-6 16, King 1-8 0-0 3, Lampert 6-11 5-6 18, Russert 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 22-27 79.
Pfingsten 4-15 7-8 16, Becker 3-7 0-0 9, Eversman 5-13 3-7 14, Ruen 6-11 1-3 15, Roggow 3-4 0-0 6, Monsen 0-1 1-2 1, Beebe 0-4, 2-2 2, Abel 0-1 0-0 0, Hunwardsen 1-1 0-0 2, Peterson 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-57 14-22 65.
3-pointers: Caledonia 7-18 (Bauer 4-6, Nord 1-4, King 1-5, Lampert 1-3); Fairmont 7-26 (Pfingsten 1-5, Becker 3-7, Eversman 1-4, Ruen 2-6, Monsen 0-1, Beebe 0-3). Fouled out: Roggow and Eversman. Rebounds: Caledonia 40 (Sorenson 10, Spier 7); Fairmont 31 (Ruen 8, Pfingsten 6). Steals: Caledonia 3; Fairmont 6 (Eversman 2). Assists: Caledonia 11; Fairmont 13 (Pfingsten 5, Ruen 3).