WINDOM - After a 24-hour delay and one half of frigid shooting, the Class AA No. 8-ranked Fairmont Cardinal girls basketball team finally heated up the Windom nets on Saturday night.
Power forward Courtney Mosloski produced a game-best 17 points behind 6-for-7 field-goal shooting in the second half to fuel No. 1-seeded Fairmont's 47-41 cardiac comeback over the No. 2-seeded Martin County West Mavericks in the Section 3, South Sub-Section championship game.
Fairmont (25-4), whose sub-section clash was postponed from Friday to Saturday due to icy road conditions, advances to face North Sub-Section champion Redwood Valley (18-9) for the sectional crown at 5 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
GETTING DEFENSIVE — Fairmont center Kayla Lardy challenges a jump shot by Martin County West’s Kate Thiesse (31) during the Section 3AA, South Sub-Section championship basketball game on Saturday night in Windom. Fairmont’s Alex Christianson (middle) and Sierra Schultz (second from left), along with Martin County West’s Madyson Larson, watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Redwood Valley eliminated BOLD, 65-53, on Friday night to reach the Section 3 finals.
Martin County West ended its season with a 20-5 record.
"We had enough good looks at the basket in the first half, but we just couldn't get anything to fall," Cardinal assistant coach Sara Junkermeier said in reference to her lineup's icy-cold 4-for-25 shooting performance - 16 percent - during the sub-section finale's initial 18 minutes.
"We didn't panic even though we trailed by 11 at halftime (22-11), and just stuck to our original game plan by pounding the ball inside to start the second half. Moz (Mosloski) hit a couple of big shots down low right away to get us going."
Ironically, Mosloski converted one of point guard Sierra Schultz's game-high six assists to account for the Cardinals' final basket of the opening half near the 6-minute mark.
Ahead 16-11, the Mavericks extended their edge to 11 as junior guard Taryn Tumbleson erupted for six of her team-high 14 points to close out the first segment.
Senior forward Kate Thiesse pocketed a steal and fired a perfect lead pass to a breaking Tumbleson for a layup before Tumbleson made a top-of-the-key theft and drove the distance for a pullup jumper with 1:34 left before intermission. Tumbleson later swooshed a pull-up 12-footer in the lane to double Martin County West's margin to 22-11 with a minute to go in the first frame.
Mosloski and the Cardinals, however, flipped the switch on their shooting during the second half, blistering the nylon cords on 14 of 20 field goals - a staggering 70 percent - to trigger runs of 11-2 and later, 11-0, to cap the comeback.
Schultz delivered back-to-back pinpoint passes to Mosloski for consecutive low-post leaners before Schultz pocketed a Maverick inbound pass from the sideline and drove the distance for a layup to cause Martin County West mentor Rodger Taylor to call timeout at the 16:22 mark.
Maverick forward Madyson Larson converted Ellie Kuehl's entry pass into a low-post basket out of the break to halt the Cardinals' quick 6-0 run, but it was only a temporary solution.
Mosloski hit a baseline turnaround jumper before Alex Christianson tracked down a long rebound and spotted Kristen Campe for a 3-pointer to inch Fairmont within 24-22 with 15 minutes remaining.
Reilly Geistfeld, who neared double-double territory by collecting 13 points and nine rebounds, hit a backdoor lay-in off a Thiesse inbound pass to trigger Martin County West's countering 9-2 surge.
Thiesse pocketed a steal and went coast-to-coast before Sierra Schrader converted a give-and-go play with Schultz along the left wing to answer for the Cardinals.
Geistfeld, however, hit a leaner in the paint before Kuehl snapped the nets on a 3-pointer off a McKenna Taylor assist to restore a nine-point lead for MCW at 35-26 with 11 minutes left.
Schultz, however, drove through traffic to earn a trip to the free throw line and hit a solo toss to trigger Fairmont's 11-0 run that produced ties at 35 and 37.
Emily Kim threaded the needle on low-post passes to Kayla Lardy and Christianson for back-to-back baskets before Lardy sank two free throws.
"I thought Emily Kim played very solid minutes for us at both ends of the court, especially during the final six or seven minutes of the game," said Junkermeier.
Mosloski and Christianson then worked a perfect high-low post play to knot the score at 35 before Kim tossed in a runner off the window to put the Cardinals in front for the first time since 6-5.
Thiesse countered with a reverse lay-in for the Mavericks, but Fairmont proceeded to outscore MCW by a 10-4 margin during the final 3 minutes.
Kim hit a left-handed drive to give the Cardinals the lead for good at 39-37 before Lardy spotted Mosloski in the low post for a banker. Christianson later tracked down an errant free throw on the offensive end and spotted Schultz for two of her nine points via a 15-footer for a 43-37 edge with 1:20 to go.
Thiesse sank a solo free throw for MCW, but Schultz salted away the comeback victory by converting back-to-back clutch one-and-one situations at the 44- and 8-second junctures, respectively.
Tumbleson then drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close out the season for the Mavericks.
Kim scored seven points off the Cardinals' bench, Christianson grabbed eight boards to complement four assists, while Lardy chipped in seven points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
Thiesse netted seven points, six boards, four steals and three assists for the Mavericks, while Taylor came off the bench to produce five blocked shots and seven rebounds.