FAIRMONT - A four-game winning streak.
Fairmont combined stellar field-goal shooting - 49 percent - on Monday night with a shutdown second-half defensive effort to post its third basketball victory over a four-day span.
Power forward Alex Christianson blistered the Cardinal Gym cords on 10-for-13 shooting from the floor to net a game-high 22 points, while center Kayla Lardy distributed six assists to complement a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds in powering the Cardinals to a 55-47 triumph over the Ellsworth Panthers in Fairmont.
SIDELINE STEAL — Fairmont’s Kristen Campe (middle) swipes the basketball from Ellsworth’s Brenna Kramer (left) near the sideline during nonconference action Monday night at Cardinal Gym in Fairmont. Ellsworth’s Alissa Walters (1) pursues on the play. Photo by Leanna Becker
"Here we go again," a smiling Fairmont head coach Don Waletich said prior to his lineup's fourth game over an eight-day span.
The Cardinals utilized the 5-foot-10 Christianson along the baseline and in the low post early and often to keep pace with the Panthers' accurate 3-point attack. Christianson made her first five shots of the game off assists from Kristen Campe, Sierra Schultz, Lardy and Tracy Thiesse, respectively, to help Fairmont grab an early 13-8 edge on the scoreboard.
Ellsworth, however, drilled 5 of 10 attempts from behind the bonus arc in the first segment - including three from Alissa Walters and two from Alexa Huisman - to later swing a 27-22 lead to the visitors with 2 minutes to go before halftime.
Schultz's defensive effort on back-to-back possessions served as the catalyst behind the Cardinals' pivotal 7-0 surge during the final 1:20 of the opening half.
Christianson sank two free throws before Lardy cleaned the offensive glass for a putback on the heels of Schultz's turnover-creating defensive effort to narrow Fairmont's deficit to 27-26 with 46 seconds remaining before intermission.
Schultz then pick-pocketed a Panther pass, drove the distance, hit the layup, drew the foul and converted the traditional 3-point play at the 27-second juncture to swing a 29-27 halftime edge to the Cardinals.
Waletich's halftime adjustments proved effective as Fairmont limited Ellsworth to only 2-for-12 shooting from 3-point range during the second half en route to a 7 of 25 performance from the floor - 28 percent - overall.
"We (coaching staff) talked about taking the 3 away from them at halftime, and it looks like we accomplished that," Cardinal assistant coach Steve Janssen said.
Ellsworth managed to produce three of the game's six ties during the second half, but Christianson and Lardy combined to counter each challenge to preserve the victory.
Bridget Kramer's low-post turnaround out of the break produced the first tie at 29-all before Lardy spotted Christianson for a low-post leaner.
Walters, who netted 15 points, later sank two free throws to knot the score at 33-all, but Lardy answered by hitting a putback basket and later a pair of free throws.
Huisman, who tallied a team-best 18 points, drilled a 3-pointer before splitting two Fairmont defenders in the lane for a lay-in on the ensuing possession to produce a deadlock at 39, but Lardy offset Ellsworth's effort with back-to-back 15-foot jumpers.
Kristen Campe, who contributed eight points and four steals, nailed a key 3-pointer from the right wing to widen the Cardinals' lead to 50-41 with 3 minutes remaining and the home team never looked back.
Christianson also garnered eight rebounds to help pace Fairmont's 32-21 edge on the boards, while Schultz chipped in six points, three assists and three steals.
Bridget Kramer supplied eight points, six assists and seven boards to the Panthers' performance.
Fairmont (6-9) travels to St. Peter on Thursday night, while Ellsworth (8-9) hits the road to Edgerton tonight.
St. Peter 46, Blue Earth Area 37 - Tailor Raymond scored a game-leading 19 points to propel the Saints to a nine-point South Central Conference victory over the Bucs on Monday night in Blue Earth.
Olivia Hass netted nine points, while teammate Kelsey Carpenter tallied eight for St. Peter.
Krista Hassing neared rare triple-double territory for Blue Earth Area by scoring 13 points, garnering a game-best 17 rebounds and pocketing seven steals.
Janessa Jahnke collected eight points and eight rebounds for the Bucs, while teammate Kaitlyn Olsen supplied seven points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Blue Earth Area (8-6, 3-3 SCC) plays host to United South Central tonight, while St. Peter (13-3, 6-1) hosts Fairmont on Thursday night.