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Fairmont basketball outlasts Luverne in 3AA playoff game

FLOATER — Fairmont guard Carter Bell lofts a shot in the lane over Luverne’s Isaiah Bartels (right) during Section 3AA, South Sub-Section semifinal basketball action Thursday night in Windom. Fairmont’s Caden Baarts (1) and Luverne’s Jayson Rops (42) watch the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

WINDOM — Survive and advance.

No. 2-seeded Fairmont capitalized from the free throw line and on the boards to withstand No. 3-seeded Luverne’s cardiac comeback during the final 5 minutes of Thursday night’s Section 3AA, South Sub-Section basketball semifinal in Windom.

Post player Wyatt Frank produced yet another double-double performance of 20 points and a game-best 15 boards, while teammates Joey Flohrs and Carter Bell equally combined for six 3-pointers and 22 points to help Fairmont fend off Luverne’s upset bid, 61-59.

Fairmont (17-9) advances to square off against No. 1-seeded Jackson County Central (18-7) in Saturday night’s 8 p.m. South Sub-Section championship clash at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

Rudy Voss poured in a game-best 30 points and Andrew Hesebeck tossed in 23 more to engineer the Huskies’ 70-54 triumph over No. 5-seeded Pipestone Area (11-16).

“When Joey hit that corner 3, I thought that would be the dagger with 5:25 left in the game,” Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson said in reference to Flohrs’ third and final trifecta that extended the lead to 55-43. “We, however, just didn’t finish. We missed open shots, couldn’t make free throws and threw the ball away during the last 4 minutes to let Luverne back into the game.

“But I do have to give credit to Luverne for not giving up and they kept fighting to the very end and nearly pulled it off.”

Isaiah Bartels, who netted a game-best 24 points, converted one of point guard Bailey Cowell’s game-best eight assists into a low-post leaner to trigger Luverne’s 10-2 run on the heels of Fairmont forward Zach Jorgensen’s pair of free throws at the 4-minute juncture.

Cowell then converted a one-and-one situation before transforming one of his game-best six steals into a layup to whittle Luverne’s deficit to 57-52 with 3 minutes to go.

Frank alertly saved the basketball from going over the end line by tipping it to Caden Baarts for a lay-in to interrupt Luverne’s surge at 59-52.

Bartels and Cowell worked their inside-outside magic for Bartels’ 23rd and 24th points before Nick Feis drilled a top-of-the-key 3 to inch Luverne within 59-57 with 14.4 seconds remaining.

Frank then sank the second of two free throws only 1.3 seconds later before Fairmont fouled Cowell with 8.6 seconds to go in regulation to create a one-and-one situation and a three-point differential. Cowell made both free throws to narrow the gap to 60-59.

After Fairmont missed a breakaway wide-open layup when Luverne used all five players to press at its offensive end, Luverne tried to lob a long-distance pass over the top of Fairmont’s towering frontline to no avail.

Jack Hested, who finished with seven points, intercepted a Hail Mary heave under the Luverne basket, was fouled with 1.0 second on the scoreboard and made the back end of a two-shot foul for a 61-59 lead.

Once again, Luverne fired a long-distance pass only to have Frank utilize his 6-foot-7 frame to intercept the basketball short of the rim.

“Rebounding and getting to the line were the two big factors tonight,” said Thompson.

Ironically, Frank garnered just four caroms short of Luverne’s entire rebounding total of 19 to pace Fairmont’s plus-13 statistical edge on the boards.

Frank made 8 of 12 free throws, while Jorgensen proved a perfect 4 of 4 at the charity stripe to help Fairmont make more free throws (15 of 23) than Luverne attempted (7 of 12) on the playoff game.

Ahead 11-7, Frank’s low-post power move combined with back-to-back 3s from Flohrs and Hested triggered Fairmont’s pivotal 8-0 run with 8:34 remaining in the first half.

Luverne, however, closed out the first half with its own 8-0 run on the strength of a Bartels 3, Cowell’s steal-turned layup and Jayson Rops’ right-corner 3 off a Cowell assist to inch within 32-29.

Bell, who finished with 11 points, had the last word before intermission by draining a left-wing 3 to stake Fairmont to a six-point lead with a minute showing on the first-half scoreboard.

Frank doled out four assists and pocketed three steals to complement his 20-point and 15-rebound effort, while Bell added three steals and three assists to his 11 point performance.

Cowell finished with 12 points, eight assists and six steals, while Feit chipped in nine points for Luverne, which ended the season with a 12-14 record.

Luverne 29-30–59

Fairmont 35-26–61

FAIRMONT (61)

Frank 6-16 8-12 20, Hested 2-6 1-2 7, Jorgensen 2-6 4-4 8, Bell 4-9 0-1 11, Baarts 1-4 2-4 4, Flohrs 4-4 0-0 11, Toomer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-45 15-23 61.

LUVERNE (59)

Sehr 1-1 0-0 2, Ahrendt 3-9 0-0 7, Bartels 9-12 4-8 24, Feit 4-6 0-0 9, Cowell 4-15 3-4 12, Rops 2-2 0-0 5, Beyer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-45 7-12 59.

3-pointers: Fairmont 8-18 (Flohrs 3, Bell 3, Hested 2); Luverne 6-19 (Bartels 2, Ahrendt 1, Feit 1, Cowell 1, Rops 1). Rebounds: Fairmont 32 (Frank 15); Luverne 19 (Bartels and Ahrendt 6 each). Assists: Fairmont 12 (Frank 4, Bell 3); Luverne 12 (Cowell 8). Steals: Fairmont 9 (Frank and Bell 3 each); Luverne 9 (Cowell 6).

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