Blue Earth Area throttles LCWM, 73-45

GETTING VERTICAL — Blue Earth Area guard Bobby Lindsey glides through the air past two Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial defenders to score a basket as the Knights’ Evan Bergemann (23) looks on during non-league action Monday night in Blue Earth. (Photo by Greg Abel)

BLUE EARTH — No pressure, no diamonds. This was metaphorically true for the Blue Earth Area Bucs boys basketball team. Once the Bucs turned on the defensive pressure against the Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Knights, the team found success en route to a 73-45 home-opening victory on Monday night.

“We got a ton of deflections, a lot of ball pressure. That was something that was lacking last Thursday when we played New Ulm,” Bucs head coach Colby Swanson said in reference to his team’s season-opening loss. “I think just the confidence and a couple plays going our way and then when we got some steals and easy baskets in transition, that led to us playing better defense.”

Knights guards Garret Wiens and Gatwech Jal hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the early minutes of the game to give the team a 10-2 lead before the Bucs came battling back.

Senior forward Jacob Vaske started the Bucs’ first run at the free throw line, knocking in one of his shots. Sophomore guard Caelan Sanders rebounded Vaske’s second free throw attempt and passed out to sophomore guard Grant Strukel, who nailed the 3.

Strukel then went to the line and made both shots before Vaske added on three more points to give the Bucs a 13-12 lead.

Knights sophomore center Landon Lantz disrupted the 9-0 run with a quick bucket, but the Bucs answered back, this time with 10 straight points.

Strukel shot another trey for a 16-14 lead with 9:30 left in the opening frame when Knights head coach John Madsen called for a timeout. After the short break, Vaske picked off two Knights passes for four points, while sophomore guard Carter Bell made good on an ‘and-1’ play for the 23-14 advantage.

Knights senior guard Evan Bergemann used an outlet pass from Jal to bring the deficit back into single digits, but freshman guard Austin Thielfoldt’s 3 put the Bucs back up by 11.

Strukel scored the team’s final seven points of the half for a total of 18 first-half points and a 39-30 Bucs lead. He finished with a game- and career-best 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-8 behind the arc, with five rebounds and four steals.

“(Grant) had an amazing first half,” Swanson said. “He shot the ball really well over the summer and it’s good to see that start to translate into shooting the ball well in games during the winter season. I’m really happy for how well he played.”

The Bucs didn’t let up in the second half, going up by 21 with 10:23 to go in the half. Senior guard Bobby Lindsey scored seven points to help the Bucs to the 34 points in the final frame.

“Bobby Lindsey was a big reason — his pressure and how hard he played — why the result was the way it was. So, I’m really proud of Bobby,” Swanson said.

Vaske was a rebound shy of a double-double, netting 12 points to go along with four steals and a block. Sanders added eight points by going 3-for-6 from the field, to go with five rebounds, while senior forward Jared Kennedy crashed the boards for five rebounds coming off the bench.

Blue Earth Area (1-1) hosts Fairmont in Game 2 of a doubleheader at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Blue Earth.

LCWM 30-15–45

BEA 39-34–73

BEA (73)

Grant Strukel 7-11 5-8 23, Jacob Vaske 2-7 8-10 12, Caelan Sanders 3-6 0-0 8, Bobby Lindsey 2-4 3-6 7, Carter Bell 2-8 3-5 7, Austin Thielfoldt 2-7 0-0 5, Jared Kennedy 2-2 0-0 4, Cameron Anderson 2-3 0-0 4, Matt Krause 1-3 0-0 2, Eric Becker 0-1 1-2 1, Brayden Barnett 0-2 0-0 0, Eric Hatch 0-1 0-0 0, Parker Kienitz, 0-0 0-0 0, Brady Olsen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 20-31 73.

LCWM (45)

Gatwech Jal 3-11 5-6 13, Evan Bergemann 5-11 3-6 13, Landon Lantz 1-6 5-6 7, Ben Graupman 2-8 0-0 5, Garret Wiens 1-7 1-2 4, Jake Weston 1-1 0-0 2, Tucker Grant 0-0 1-2 1, James Sullivan 0-4 0-0 0, Kyle Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Caleb Shelton 0-2 0-0 0, Jared Hohenstein 0-0 0-1 0, Jayden Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Aron Mumme 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-53 15-23 45.

3-pointers: Blue Earth Area 7-20 (Strukel 4-8, Sanders 2-4, Thielfoldt 1-4, Bell 0-3, Hatch 0-1); Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 4-21 (Jal 2-7, Graupman 1-3, Wiens 1-3, Lantz 0-3, Sullivan 0-3, Bergemann 0-1, Jones 0-1). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: Blue Earth Area 39 (Vaske 9); Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 31 (Bergemann 10). Assists: Blue Earth Area 7; Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 7 (Graupman 3). Steals: BEA 18 (Vaske and Strukel 4 each); LCWM 5. Blocks: LCWM 5 (Bergemann 4); BEA 1.