Olson, St. Peter top B.E. Area in South finals

PICK-POCKET — Blue Earth Area’s Braden Gudahl swipes the basketball from St. Peter’s Ethan Volk (front left) for a breakaway basket during the Section 2AA, South Sub-Section championship game Monday night at the Taylor Center on the Minnesota State University campus in Mankato. Blue Earth Area’s Caelan Sanders (21), Cameron Anderson (3) and Carter Bell (13), along with St. Peter’s Ethan Grant (21), watch the action. (Photo by Greg Abel)

MANKATO — Caelan Sanders’ first-half sharpshooting and teammate Cameron Anderson’s double-double performance helped Blue Earth Area offset St. Peter 6-foot-5 post player Wyatt Olson’s double-double effort and teammate Brock Hanson’s hot-handed first-half scoring binge.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, 6-3 junior guard Josh Johnson came off the Saints’ bench and proved the X-factor during Monday night’s Section 2AA, South Sub-Section basketball championship at the Taylor Center on the Minnesota State University campus.

Johnson produced nine of his 14 points during the final 18 minutes of regulation to help St. Peter outscore Blue Earth Area by a 43-38 margin in the second half en route to a 79-68 triumph in Mankato.

St. Peter (21-6) advances to play Jordan (23-3) for the Section 2AA championship at 7:45 p.m. Friday night back at the Taylor Center. Jordan rolled by Glencoe-Silver Lake, 81-60, to capture the North Sub-Section crown.

“They’ve got six guys who can score in double figures for them, and he (Johnson) just happened to come off the bench tonight,” said Bucs head coach Colby Swanson, whose lineup closed out the season with a 12-13 record.

Sanders’ traditional 3-point play combined with Braden Gudahl’s runner in the lane inched Blue Earth Area within three at 46-43 with 13 minutes remaining in the second half.

Johnson, however, joined forces with Olson to trigger St. Peter’s pivotal 12-3 surge during the ensuing 4-minute span to build a 58-46 advantage. Olson, who finished with a team-best 22 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, converted one of his three second-half traditional 3-point plays to open the run before Johnson contributed five of the next seven points.

Anderson, who produced 21 points and grabbed a team-best 10 rebounds, and Sanders, who finished with a team-high 24 points, then combined for 11 points during the Bucs’ counter-attack, but Olson’s traditional 3-point play and Johnson’s 3-pointer kept BEA at bay at 66-57 with 6 minutes remaining.

Seth Lokensgard and Ethan Volk each sank two free throws during the final 2 minutes to help the Saints pull away for the 11-point win.

Swanson and the Bucs’ game plan worked for a first half that featured 11 lead changes and five ties en route to the Saints’ three-point lead by intermission.

“Defensively, we did a good job of keeping the ball out of Olson’s hands and forced them to take outside shots in the first half,” said Swanson, whose lineup scorched the nets on 15 of 25 field goals during the initial 18 minutes. “They were able to hit a high percentage (56.5 percent) of their shots from the perimeter and kept the game close.

“Olson then just took over during the second half.”

Olson was limited to just three points and four boards in the first half as Hanson picked up the offensive slack by pouring in 14 points.

Sanders erupted for 18 points on 8-for-12 field-goal shooting in the opening segment to keep the Bucs within striking distance.

“Caelan turned in an amazing game tonight. He took his overall game to another level to keep us close,” said Swanson.

Gudahl delivered 11 points off the Bucs’ bench, while Hanson and Lokensgard scored 16 and 13 points, respectively, for the Saints.

B.E. Area 33-35–68

St. Peter 36-43–79

B.E. AREA (68)

C. Anderson 8-12 4-4 21, Sanders 10-18 2-3 24, Strukel 1-4 0-0 2, Bell 2-4 0-0 4, Thielfoldt 2-6 1-2 5, Gudahl 3-4 4-5 11, Herrmann 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 26-48 12-16 68.

ST. PETER (79)

W. Olson 9-11 4-5 22, Lokensgard 4-9 3-4 13, Hanson 7-9 1-3 16, Grant 3-9 1-3 8, Volk 1-4 2-2 5, Lubiani 0-4 1-2 1, J. Johnson 3-7 6-8 14. Totals 27-53 18-27 79.

3-pointers: St. Peter 7-22 (J. Johnson 2-6, Lokensgard 2-5, Volk 1-3, Grant 1-4, Hanson 1-1, Lubiani 0-3); B.E. Area 4-12 (Sanders 2-3, C. Anderson 1-3, Gudahl 1-1, Strukel 0-3, Thielfoldt 0-2). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: St. Peter 32 (W. Olson 18); BEA 20 (C. Anderson 10). Assists: St. Peter 14 (Volk 6); BEA 5. Steals: St. Peter 9 (Grant 3); BEA 6 (Sanders 3).