BLUE EARTH - The Blue Earth Area Bucs boys basketball team outscored the Class 2A, No. 6-ranked Fairmont Cardinals 35-30 in the second half of the South Central Conference clash on Friday in Blue Earth.
The Cardinal defense needed a couple key stops and Mitch Pfingsten, who scored a game-high 27 points, hit a couple critical shots to carry Fairmont to a 60-55 victory.
Blue Earth Area senior Luke Monson countered on the offensive end for the Bucs in the second half and powered up a layup for two of his 22 points to give the the home team its first lead of the game at 36-34 with 11:30 left in the game.
HANDS-ON?DEFENSE — Fairmont’s Nick Roggow (41) contests Blue Earth Area guard Brandon Olson’s entry pass to Buc teammate Kellen Jacobs (left) in the low post as the Cardinals’ Ben Abel defends during basketball action Friday night in Blue Earth. Fairmont’s Josh Eversman (25), Jay Ruen (middle back) and Taylor Beebe, along with Blue Earth Area’s Luke Monson (25) and Conor Barnett, watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"Luke Monson played like a beast, which he always does," said Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson. "He was huge for them in the final five or six minutes of the game, but we did a good job of keeping him from scoring most of the game."
Conor Barnett skipped a pass toward the baseline to Monson's outstretched hand, before the Buc post player drop-stepped into the lane for the go-ahead bucket.
Pfingsten responded on the other end, driving into the lane and hitting a quick jumper from the elbow to even the score at 36.
After a loose ball under the basket stayed in the Bucs' possession, Monson grabbed the inbounds pass and was fouled on his shot, sending him to the free throw line for a traditional 3-point play.
"I thought that we had a great crowd tonight, and for the first time our guys really fed off that and really got after it," said Blue Earth Area head coach Seth Anderson. "They got a chance to see what kind of effort it takes to play at the top level, which I think will only help us going forward."
Monson swished the charity toss to give the Bucs a three-point edge.
"This really was a momentum game. I thought it went back-and-forth between teams, and they controlled parts of this game," said Thompson. "I thought that our shot selection and patience on offense was really what helped us hold on in the end."
Pfingsten hit back-to-back shots on the next two Cardinal offensive runs to go ahead 40-39, before Josh Eversman, who had three steals, snared a Bucs' pass and took it the length of the floor for a layup.
With the momentum in Fairmont's favor, BEA junior forward Derek Johnson went to fire a 3 in the corner and was fouled, sending him to the free throw line for three shots.
Johnson swished all three to take back the momentum in tying the game at 44 with 6:30 remaining.
Pfingsten countered by driving to the basket and drawing the foul, going to the line for a 3-point play.
Pfingsten, who made 6 of 9 attempts from the line, swished the free throw to go ahead 47-44.
Eversman then used his wingspan to snare another Buc pass out of the air and raced the length of the court for pair of his 16 points to make it 49-44.
"Defensively, we knew that we don't match up that well against them. And there is a perception that if you run a 2-3 defense, that you'll give up a lot of outside shots, but not if you play it right," said Anderson. "I thought that defensively we did a great job of not giving up those shots, but not letting them attack the middle."
The Cardinal defense continued its attack a couple minutes later when Luke Becker picked off a Blue Earth Area pass and zipped the outlet pass ahead to Eversman for the easy two to go ahead 51-46 with 3:12 on the clock.
Bailey Olson, who pulled down nine rebounds and scored 10 points for the Bucs, netted three of his points with a basket from the top of the arc to make it a five-point game, 55-50, with 2:20 left.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Cardinals used an effective stall offense that forced the home team to foul, and Pfingsten and Nick Roggow swished a pair, while Becker made one of two to cap the Cardinal scoring.
Monson generated a little hope for the Bucs in the final seconds, swishing a 3 from the top of the key to make it 60-55, but with only 7.8 seconds remaining, the Cardinals iced the win.
"I think that our players really did a good job tonight. Monson played great for us, and Bailey Olson probably had the best game of his career," said Anderson. "As a coach, it's tough because we didn't get the win, but I think the players can feel good about their effort."
Roggow scored the Cardinals' first eight points as they opened the game with an 11-1 scoring run. The Fairmont senior finished with 10 points in the game.
Johnson finished with six points for the Bucs, while Barnett recorded nine points.
Fairmont (5-1, 2-1 SCC) hosts Byron at 7 p.m. tonight at Cardinal Gym.
Blue Earth Area (1-3, 1-2 SCC) travels to Waseca on Thursday.
Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton 49, Truman/Martin Luther 48 - Ricky Johnson hit the game-winning shot with 4.8 seconds remaining in regulation to fuel the Bulldogs' one-point decision over the BluejayKnights on Friday night in Janesville.
Johnson finished with a double-double performance of 11 points and 14 rebounds, while teammates Kyle Fisel and Tristan Kroll chipped in 10 points each.
Sam Geistfeld erupted for a double-double effort of a game-best 21 points to go with 12 boards and four blocked shots to top TML.
Alex Weihe also reached double-double territory by scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the BluejayKnights.
TML sank 18 of 47 field goals and 6 of 7 free throws on the game, while JWP hit 19 of 56 shots from the floor and 9 of 16 at the line.
Truman/Martin Luther (2-3, 0-1 Valley) travels to Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Madelia 71, Alden-Conger 48 - Derrick Van Hee and Jack Bergeman each scored 20 points to guide the Blackhawks to a 71-48 Valley Conference victory over the Knights on Friday night in Madelia.
Van Hee and Bergeman each garnered six rebounds for Madelia, while teammate Garhouth Dak chipped in eight points and nine rebounds.
Madelia (3-3, 1-2 Valley) travels to Lake Crystal on Thursday night.