St. James Area ends Fairmont’s Section 3AA run

ELEVATING — Fairmont’s Nick Eversman (middle) goes up for a jump shot in a Section 3AA, South Sub-Section semifinal against St. James Area in Windom on Thursday night. The Saints’ Lee Hillesheim (black jersey) goes for the block, while Fairmont’s Dustin Schultz (left) watches the action. (Photo by Greg Abel)

WINDOM — The 3s rained down on the Windom gym.

The No. 1-seeded St. James Area Saints claimed a 58-52 win over the No. 5-seeded Fairmont Cardinals in the Section 3AA, South Sub-Section semifinal Thursday night in Windom.

The Saints (17-8) move on to face No. 2-seeded Jackson County Central in the sub-section final in Worthington at noon Saturday. JCC beat No. 3-seeded Pipestone 66-56 in the late game Thursday night.

The Cardinals ended their season with a record of 13-14.

SJA held a 25-18 lead coming out of halftime, then the 3s began to fall. The teams combined to hit 13 shots from behind the arc in the second period, with Fairmont hitting seven and SJA sinking six. The Saints ended the game shooting 9-for-19 from 3, while the Cardinals made 9 of 24 attempts from behind the arc.

SJA’s Derrick Halvorson opened the second half with a 3 off a rebound-turned-assist from Peyton Hanson.

Zach Jorgensen answered for the Cardinals with a layup off a Jack Hested assist for two of his co-team leading 11 points.

The Saints’ Lee Hillesheim splashed a 3 off another of Hanson’s game-leading six assists to put the Saints ahead by 11, and after a Hanson free throw, the Saints were up 12.

Fairmont began to fight back with a Jorgensen 3, but the Saints’ Kobe Mohwinkel answered with a 3 of his own off an assist from Halvorson.

Fairmont would come within three points after Nick Eversman hit a three and sank two free throws, Jack Hested made one of his co-game leading three 3s and Wyatt Frank hit a free throw, but SJA built up a 12-point lead once again within the next minute off of three consecutive 3s from Mohwinkel, Hillesheim and Parker Jones.

The Cardinals came within 54-49 with a minute remaining, but were unable to take advantage of missed free throws.

Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson said he was happy with his players effort, but they couldn’t keep up with the Saints’ scoring pace.

“St. James played really well,” Thompson said. “They got off to a quicker start and they had a nice run to end the first half. I think both teams were a little nervous to start, we started playing better, but every time we made a run, they made one right back. St. James shot the ball really well and we didn’t shoot great. They did a really good job taking away the inside game for us and we didn’t have the shooting we’ve had the last few games to open that up for Wyatt (Frank) and Dustin (Schultz). It wasn’t just one thing, St. James just played a little better than we did tonight.”

Both teams struggled to lift the lid off the rim in the first half, with Fairmont shooting 8-for-26 and SJA making 10 of 21 shots.

Eversman and Jorgensen led the Cardinals with 11 points each, while Eversman added six rebounds and Jorgensen grabbed five boards and dished out three assists.

Dustin Schultz had a team-leading five assists to complement nine points and Wyatt Frank had a game-high nine rebounds.

The Saints’ Jones led the game with 18 points, while bringing down six rebounds and blocking two shots. Hillesheim scored 11 for the Saints.

The teams combined for nine blocks on the night, Fairmont had five and SJA had four.

After beginning the season 6-11, the Cardinals won seven of their final 10 games to come close to the .500 mark. Thompson said he is pleased at how the team turned the season around.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” Thompson said. “This season could have gone one of two ways halfway through when we got off to a slow start and these guys kept fighting and turned a season full of struggles into a season full of a lot of really good memories. I thought we played our best ball late in the year, which is what you always hope for and I’m proud of the guys for fighting through the struggles.

“Everybody but one team is going to end with a loss. I’m sad it’s over, but I’m not sad about how the guys played.”

Fairmont 18-34–52

St. James 25-33–58

Fairmont (52)

Eversman 3-11 3-4 11, Jorgensen 4-6 1-4 11, Hested 3-9 0-0 9, Schultz 4-11 0-0 9, Flohrs 3-5 0-0 7, Frank 2-5 1-2 5, P. Ortega 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-49 5-10 52.

ST. JAMES (58)

Jones 8-12 1-2 18, Hillesheim 4-6 0-0 11, Mohwinkel 3-10 1-2 10, Halvorson 3-7 2-3 10, Hanson 2-3 5-7 9, Carlson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-39 9-14 58.

3-pointers: Fairmont 9-24 (Hested 3); SJA 9-19 (Mohwinkel 3, Hillesheim 3). Fouled out: none. Rebounds: Fairmont 28 (Frank 9, Eversman 6, Jorgensen 5); SJA 21 (Hanson 7, Jones 6). Assists: Fairmont 13 (Schultz 5); SJA 10 (Hanson 6). Steals: Fairmont 4; SJA 5.