Eagles floor Cardinals in South semifinals, 75-63
JACKSON — Fairmont senior guard Nate Kallenbach seemingly could not miss from 3-point range during Thursday night’s postseason basketball game.
Windom Area senior guard Luke Gilbertson, however, seemingly could not miss from everywhere else on the Jackson gymnasium’s hardwood court.
Gilbertson poured in a game-best 32 points, including three treys and 11 of 12 free throws, to power the No. 4-seeded Eagles to a stunning 75-63 Section 3AA, South Sub-Section semifinal victory over the No. 1-seeded Cardinals.
Windom Area (15-12) advances to face No. 2-seeded Pipestone (18-10) in a 6 p.m. South final on Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. The Arrows eliminated No. 3-seeded Jackson County Central, 63-39.
“Gilbertson got us in foul trouble with his ability to drive to the basket tonight,” said Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson, whose lineup ended its season with a 19-7 record.
Gilbertson, who scorched the nylon nets on 9-for-18 field-goal shooting, bookended Windom Area’s pivotal 11-0 first-half surge that Fairmont never recovered from for the duration.
Trailing 17-14, the Eagles’ 6-foot-1 guard drained two free throws before backcourt teammate Kobe Lovell pocketed a steal, drew a foul and sank both free throws.
Windom Area center Kaden Elder then tossed in back-to-back low-post leaners off assists from Wyatt Minion and Lovell before Gilbertson buried a left-corner 3 out of Fairmont’s timeout at the 8:45 juncture of the opening half.
Gilbertson later swooshed 3s from the left wing and right corner before finding Lovell for a top-of-the-key trey to help stake the Eagles to a 37-24 halftime edge.
“Actually, I haven’t shot well in this gym during my high school career, but tonight, everything seemed to fall,” said a modest Gilbertson. “I don’t keep track of points, but it definitely didn’t feel like I scored that many (32).”
After Kallenbach opened the second half with a right-wing trifecta for three of his team-best 23 points for the Cardinals, Minion, Lovell and Elder countered Fairmont’s offensive firepower generated by Brady Allen and Kallenbach to keep the margin between 12 to 15 until the midway juncture.
Trailing 52-37, Sam Schwieger’s left-wing 18-footer off a Kallenbach assist triggered Fairmont’s 8-0 run to slice Windom Area’s lead to nine.
Derek Missling hit a low-post turnaround, Wyatt Quiring sank a solo free throw and Kallenbach converted one of Allen’s team-best four assists into another 3 at 52-43 with 8 minutes to go.
Gilbertson, however, slammed the brakes on the Cardinals’ cardiac comeback by delivering back-to-back slashing ‘and-1’ plays to re-establish a double-digit lead at 58-43.
“Our success tonight was a result of our guys persevering on the defensive end and creating fastbreak chances,” Gilbertson said in reference to his Eagles forcing 22 Cardinal turnovers en route to a plus-9 edge in that statistical category. “Our coaches hammered that fact home (playing good defense) during the last two weeks and it paid off tonight.”
Despite Allen, who neared double-double territory by scoring 18 points to complement nine rebounds, and Kallenbach driving hard to the basket for lay-ins during the final 3 minutes of regulation, Windom Area countered by sinking 12 of 16 free throws during the second half en route to a 20-for-28 performance — 71 percent — on the game.
“Free throw shooting was definitely a big difference tonight,” said Thompson, whose lineup made only 7 of 13 at the charity stripe. “They were more physical than us tonight.”
Gilbertson proved a perfect 8-for-8 from the line in the second half, including six during the final 3 minutes.
Gilbertson also produced five rebounds, three steals and three assists, while Elder delivered 15 points and a team-best seven rebounds for the Eagles. Lovell netted 12 points, while Minion chipped in seven points, four assists and four steals.
Quiring finished with seven points and a co-game-high nine rebounds for the Cardinals, while Missling chipped in seven points, five boards and three steals.
Allen 7-18 2-2 18, Schwieger 2-7 0-1 4, Missling 3-7 1-4 7, Quiring 2-6 3-4 7, Kallenbach 8-17 1-2 23, Schultz 0-2 0-0 0, Eversman 2-4 0-0 4, Hested 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 7-13 63.
Minion 2-7 3-4 7, Elder 7-9 0-0 15, Franz 1-3 0-0 2, Gilbertson 9-18 11-12 32, Lovell 3-8 4-6 12, Maricle 1-2 1-4 4, Smith 0-1 1-2 1, Pfeffer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 20-28 75.
3-pointers: Fairmont 8-23 (Kallenbach 6-12, Allen 2-7, Schwieger 0-2, Quiring 0-2); Windom 7-19 (Gilbertson 3-6, Lovell 2-6, Maricle 1-2, Elder 1-2, Minion 0-2, Pfeffer 0-1). Fouled out: Schwieger and Schultz. Rebounds: Fairmont 35 (Allen and Quiring 9 each); Windom 27 (Elder 7). Assists: Windom 12 (Minion 4, Gilbertson 3); Fairmont 10 (Allen 4, Schwieger 3). Steals: Windom 12 (Minion 4, Lovell 3); Fairmont 7 (Missling 3).