Huskies fend off Cardinals, 55-50

HANDS-UP PLAY — Fairmont guard Lexi Lunn (3) grabs a rebound away from Jackson County Central’s Molly Brinkman (5) and Cardinal teammates Abby Tonder (25) and Maggy Totzke (1) during Big South Conference basketball action Monday night in Fairmont. The Huskies’ Lauren Murphy (12) watches the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Fairmont center Claire Cutler triggered the Cardinals’ comeback midway through the second half of Monday night’s Big South basketball game, but Jackson County Central’s 5-foot-6 post player Melissa Brandt answered the challenge in the nick of time.

Cutler reeled off nine consecutive points to close the Cardinals within 45-44, but Brandt delivered back-to-back pivotal baskets to help swing an eventual 55-50 victory to the visiting Huskies in Fairmont.

“What she gives up in height, she makes up for in work ethic,” Jackson County Central head coach Chris Aggen said in reference to Brandt. “We got in a little bit of foul trouble in the second half, but our girls just kept battling and prevailed in the end.”

Junior wing Alaina Wolff’s 10 first-half points, combined with nine apiece from Brandt and point guard Molly Brinkman, staked the Huskies to a 32-21 lead before intermission. Abby Tonder, however, swooshed a 10-foot baseline shot off a Brooke Hunwardsen assist with 3 seconds remaining to scratch the Cardinals within nine at the break.

Taylor Crissinger produced half of her 10 points on the contest before teammate Lexi Lunn connected for the home team’s only 3-pointer of the night to eventually trim Fairmont’s deficit to 41-35 at the 9-minute juncture.

Claire Cutler, one of the Cardinals’ four 6-footers, sank two free throws before Wolff hit a baseline jumper to counter for the Huskies.

Crissinger then spotted Claire Cutler for a low-post bank shot, Cutler added a solo free throw and then cleaned up an offensive rebound triggered by one of Hunwardsen’s three steals and hit a layup off a Lunn long-distance assist to whittle Fairmont’s gap to 45-44 with 5:50 remaining in regulation.

The hard-working undersized Brandt displayed her mettle by coming out of an Aggen timeout, converting Kailey Koep’s entry pass into a low-post leaner. Lauren Murphy then spotted Brandt for a runner in traffic on the next sequence to re-establish breathing room for JCC at 49-44.

Alli Lardy later banked in one of Crissinger’s four assists to inch within 49-46 at the 4:10 mark only to have Brinkman bank in a low-post runner off Murphy’s perfect inbound pass at the 1:59 juncture.

Wolff, who tossed in a game-high 17 points on 5-for-19 field-goal shooting, converted a clutch one-and-one situation with 1:01 showing to fend off the Cardinals’ cardiac comeback.

“We’ve outshot and outrebounded the opposing teams in our last two games,” Fairmont head coach Sara Junkermeier said in reference to her lineup’s narrow 34-29 edge on the glass and 41 to 35 percent shooting edge from the field. “TOs — turnovers (22-14) — were the difference.”

That, and the Huskies’ 16-for-24 free throw shooting performance compared to 7-for-10 at the line by the Cardinals.

Claire Cutler finished with a team-best 13 points to complement five rebounds for Fairmont; Crissinger tallied 10 points, grabbed five boards and doled out four assists; while Tonder contributed eight points and five rebounds.

Brandt and Brinkman each scored 13 points for JCC, with Brandt pulling down a game-high seven rebounds to go with three steals.

Brinkman doled out four assists, while Koep chipped in eight points, six boards, a game-best five steals and three assists.

Fairmont (10-14) travels to St. James Area on Thursday night for another Big South game. Jackson County Central (15-8) hits the road to St. Clair next Monday night for its regular-season finale.

JCC 32-23–55

FHS 23-27–50


B. Cutler 3-5 0-0 6, Lardy 3-4 0-0 6, C. Cutler 5-9 3-4 13, Hunwardsen 1-3 0-0 2, Lunn 2-12 0-0 5, Crissinger 3-9 4-6 10, Totzke 0-2 0-0 0, Tonder 4-7 0-0 8. Totals 21-51 7-10 50.

JCC (55)

Wolff 5-19 5-9 17, Murphy 0-2 0-0 0, Brandt 6-10 1-2 13, Koep 1-6 6-9 8, Brinkman 4-8 4-4 13, Voss 2-6 0-0 4, Eckert 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-51 16-24 55.

3-pointers: Jackson Co. Central 3-9 (Wolff 2-7, Brinkman 1-2); Fairmont 1-11 (Lunn 1-7, B. Cutler 0-2, Crissinger 0-1, Totzke 0-1). Fouled out: C. Cutler. Rebounds: Fairmont 34 (Lardy and Lunn 6 each); JCC 29 (Brandt 7). Assists: Fairmont 16 (Hunwardsen and Crissinger 4 each); JCC 12 (Murphy and Brinkman 4 each). Steals: JCC 14 (Koep 5); Fairmont 7 (Hunwardsen 3).

Jackson County Central held off Fairmont in B-squad play, 43-39, Monday.

Natalie Tonne tallied 10 points to top the Cardinals, Bryn Miller netted eight points, Madysen Allen tossed in seven points and Faith Olson chipped in five points.

Fairmont edged Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, 36-32, during B-squad action on Saturday in Waterville.

Bryn Miller produced 10 points to pace the Cardinals, Natalie Tonne netted eight points, while Maggy Totzke added five points.

Blue Earth Area 55, United South Central 29 — Junior forward Caitlin Rorman poured in a game-high 17 points to help power the Bucs to a 26-point non-league triumph over the Rebels on Monday night in Blue Earth.

Hannah Johnson supplied 11 points and five rebounds to Blue Earth Area’s winning ways, while teammate Sofie Blair distributed a game-best four assists.

The Bucs built a 28-16 halftime advantage and never trailed.

Lizzy Baird netted 12 points to top USC.

Blue Earth Area (12-11) travels to Heron Lake on Thursday night to face Heron Lake-Okabena.