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Anderson, balanced B.E. Area advance to sub-section final

SUB-SECTION SCRAMBLE — Blue Earth Area’s Grant Strukel (right) battles New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s Devin Buendorf for control of the loose basketball during Thursday night’s Section 2AA, South Sub-Section semifinal at Mankato East High School. The Bucs’ Cameron Anderson (far left), along with the Panthers’ Jacob Schuller (1) and Lonnie Wilson (back right), watch the action. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

MANKATO — Colby Swanson is listed as a social studies instructor on Blue Earth Area High School’s website, but he also knows a little something about teaching chemistry.

All five of Swanson’s starters produced double figures in the scoring column, in addition to connecting on 16 of 20 second-half free throws and 10 of 16 3-pointers on the game, to help the No. 2-seeded Bucs pass the No. 3-seeded New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Panthers’ postseason basketball test on the Mankato East hardwood court Thursday night.

Cameron Anderson neared double-double territory by scoring a team-best 18 points, along with grabbing a team-leading eight rebounds and distributing four assists, to engineer Blue Earth Area’s 70-54 Section 2AA, South Sub-Section semifinal triumph over NRHEG.

Blue Earth Area (12-12) advances to play No. 1-seeded St. Peter (20-6) in a 6 p.m. sub-section championship game Monday night at the Taylor Center on the Minnesota State University campus in Mankato.

Wyatt Olson scored 21 points and Brock Hanson delivered 14 points and 12 rebounds to help St. Peter fend off No. 4-seeded Maple River (9-19), 73-58, in Thursday’s initial sub-section semifinal.

“As a coach, you can’t ask for better balanced scoring than what we’re getting from our guys during the playoffs,” said Swanson. “We moved the ball extremely well, looked for the open man, got good looks (at the basket) and most importantly, made a lot of shots tonight.”

The Bucs blistered the East gymnasium’s nets by connecting on 6 of 9 3-pointers to cling to a 30-28 halftime lead before cranking up their accuracy numbers from 2-point range and the charity stripe during the final 18 minutes.

Blue Earth Area then made an incredible 10 of 16 field goals — including 4 of 7 from behind the arc — during the second half for 62.5 percent combined, while draining 16 of 20 free throws for 80 percent down the stretch.

Jacob Schuller, who topped all players with a game-best double-double performance of 23 points and 12 rebounds, converted one of Brady Agrimson’s game-high five assists into a low-post leaner to inch the Panthers within 37-32 with 14:37 remaining in regulation.

Swanson called timeout, and must have used a page or two out of his Character Development & Leadership course that he teaches to inspire his Bucs.

Caelan Sanders, who finished with 11 points, converted one of Austin Thielfoldt’s three assists into a cutter through traffic to trigger Blue Earth Area’s ensuing 11-3 offensive surge. Zach Herrmann nailed a left-corner 3-pointer off another Thielfoldt pass before Thielfoldt traded roles and cashed in one of Braden Gudahl’s three helpers by drilling a top-of-the-key 3.

Agrimson, who finished with 14 points, and Cameron Anderson then exchanged trifectas as the Bucs extended their lead to 48-35 with 10 minutes remaining.

Schuller countered with a pair of free throws and another low-post leaner for NRHEG, but BEA’s Grant Strukel reeled off six of his 11 points to serve as the catalyst behind his team’s 10-1 offensive outburst en route to a 58-40 edge.

Anderson, Thielfoldt and Carter Bell then combined to sink 10 of 12 free throws during the final 4 minutes of the sub-section semifinal to seal the 16-point victory.

Thielfoldt contributed 13 points to the Bucs’ winning ways, while Bell delivered 12 points, including three 3-pointers.

Lonnie Wilson collected six points, seven rebounds, three steals and four assists for the Panthers, who ended their season with a 12-15 overall record.

B.E. Area 30-40–70

NRHEG 28-26–54

B.E. AREA (70)

C. Anderson 5-10 5-6 18, Sanders 5-8 1-1 11, Strukel 3-4 4-6 11, Bell 3-7 3-4 12, Thielfoldt 3-4 5-6 13, Gudahl 0-1 0-0 0, Herrmann 2-3 0-0 5, Storbeck 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-37 18-23 70.

NRHEG (54)

Agrimson 5-13 0-0 14, Schuller 9-17 5-10 23, Ihrke 3-10 2-2 11, Wilson 3-6 0-2 6, Buendorf 0-2 0-0 0, Schlaak 0-2 0-0 0, Christenson 0-2 0-1 0. Totals 20-52 7-15 54.

3-pointers: B.E. Area 10-16 (Bell 3-5, C. Anderson 3-6, Thielfoldt 2-2, Herrmann 1-1, Strukel 1-2); NRHEG 7-18 (Agrimson 4-8, Ihrke 3-9, Buendorf 0-2). Fouled out: Sanders (BEA). Rebounds: NRHEG 27 (Schuller 12); B.E. Area 25 (C. Anderson 8). Assists: B.E. Area 14 (C. Anderson 4, Thielfoldt and Gudahl 3 each); NRHEG 14 (Agrimson 5, Wilson 4). Steals: NRHEG 7 (Wilson 3); B.E. Area 5.

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