FAIRMONT - St. Peter moved into the No. 1 spot in the Minnesota Associated Press' Class 2A boys basketball state rankings on Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours later, the Class 2A, No. 10-ranked Fairmont Cardinals handed the visiting Saints only their second loss of the season, their first defeat in the South Central Conference and ended St. Peter's incredible 10-game winning streak.
Mitch Pfingsten erupted for game-bests of 27 points and six steals, while Josh Eversman delivered 14 points and nine rebounds to help Fairmont upend St. Peter, 64-59, in the battle of undefeated league leaders on Thursday night at Cardinal Gym.
OUT OF REACH — Fairmont guard Mitch?Pfingsten (3) elevates to fire a jumpshot over St. Peter’s Josh Peymann (11) during South Central Conference basketball action Thursday night at Cardinal Gym. St. Peter’s Braxton Raymond (23), Tommy Steidler (32) and Nathan Kempenich look on. Photo by Leanna Becker
"When I looked at the numbers at halftime, and we had shot only 25 percent and were only down by one (point), I felt pretty good," Cardinal mentor Jared Thompson said. "I thought one of the keys was how we finished the first half. They (the Saints) made a run and we called timeout a couple of minutes before halftime. It was huge to close out those last two minutes or so with a 9-3 run to close the gap."
Freshman guard Braxton Raymond, son of St. Peter mentor Kelly Raymond, displayed the poise of a seasoned varsity veteran by nailing a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to put the Saints ahead 25-18 with time winding down.
Pfingsten, who had netted only four points to that juncture, warmed up the nylon nets quickly by converting back-to-back one-and-one situations to narrow the Cardinals' gap to 25-22.
Raymond, who came off the Saints' bench to deliver seven rebounds and three assists, hit a putback basket for two of his 13 points before teammate Kolin Bartlett hit a solo free throw.
Trailing by six, Pfingsten tossed home a runner in traffic at the 47-second mark before drilling a pivotal 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining before intermission.
"I thought we rebounded much better in the second half to really limit St. Peter's second chances," Thompson said in reference to Fairmont's narrow 15-13 second-half edge on the boards after getting outrebounded by a 24-17 margin by the Saints' towering frontline of 6-foot-8 Peter Kruize, 6-5 Kolin Bartlett and 6-4 Tommy Steidler in the opening segment. "We finally adjusted to their length in the second half and just shot the ball much better (13 for 24 - 54 percent)."
After exchanging the lead two times each to open the second half, Bryce Holm's challenging drive to the hoop and Levi Becker's layup off of Pfingsten's midcourt steal produced the fourth of six ties at 42-all with 8:16 remaining in regulation.
Bartlett, who netted 10 points and eight rebounds off the St. Peter bench, hit a putback basket before Pfingsten and the Saints' Nathan Kempenich traded 3-pointers. Pfingsten's back-to-back pull-up jumpers swung a 49-47 edge to the Cardinals before Kruize banked home a low-post turnaround to knot the game one final time with 3:45 to go.
Eversman then delivered a pivotal 3-pointer from the left corner off a Justin Barnes assist before Eversman sank two free throws to establish a five-point Fairmont margin with 3 minutes remaining.
Braxton Raymond calmly drained a key 3 to slice the Saints' gap to 54-52, but Jay Ruen's baseline jumper restored the Cardinals' lead to four.
Kruize, who produced a double-double of 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, nailed a clutch baseline jumper off a Raymond assist, but Ryan Noll snapped the nets on a pivotal 3-pointer from the left corner to put Fairmont ahead 59-54 with 1 minute to go.
Raymond answered with another trey with just 39 seconds remaining, but Eversman and Noll worked a perfect press-breaking play to produce Eversman's monumental traditional 3-point play for a 62-57 lead with 28 ticks showing on the scoreboard.
Steidler hit a putback for the Saints, but Ruen and Eversman sank solo free throws, including Ruen's charity toss on the heels of an intentional foul, to seal the five-point SCC triumph.
Fairmont (13-3, 5-0 SCC) plays host to St. James next Thursday night, while St. Peter (13-2, 4-1) plays host to Tri-City United on Monday night.
Spencer Chirpich produced 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals to power Fairmont to a 50-21 victory over St. Peter during B-squad action Thursday.
Ben Abel contributed 11 points to the Cardinals' winning ways, while Cole Emler chipped in six points and five boards.
Noah Quiring tallied 10 points and nine rebounds to steer Fairmont to a 43-37 overtime victory over St. Peter during C-squad action Thursday.
Tyler Tennyson scored 13 points to top the Cardinals (8-4), Josh Liljenquist netted 10 points, Clayton Maakestad chipped in six points and seven boards, while Anthony Shimon pulled down seven caroms.
Martin County West 67, Alden-Conger 29 - Austin Krumwiede poured in a game-best 27 points to stampede the Mavericks to a 38-point Valley Conference rout over the Knights on Thursday night in Alden.
Jake Faber delivered 13 points and seven rebounds to MCW's winning ways, Alex Biehn scored 10 points, while Mitch Sitzmann chipped in five points and distributed six assists.
The Mavericks connected on 25 of 54 field goals and 11 of 14 free throws on the game.
Martin County West (14-3, 8-1 Valley) plays host to Minnesota Valley Lutheran on Tuesday night in Sherburn.
Truman/Martin Luther 60, Granada-Huntley-East Chain 46 - Cade Ekstrom generated a game-leading 17 points to steer the BluejayKnights to a 14-point Valley Conference victory over the Mustangs on Thursday night at East Chain School.
Chandler Greier posted 14 points to TML's winning performance, while teammate DaMarko Thomas chipped in 11 points.
Trent Stensland neared double-double territory for GHEC by scoring 16 points to complement nine rebounds, while Konnor Kristenson supplied 13 points.
Dylan Petrowiak netted six rebounds and five assists for the Mustangs, while Jared Green added six rebounds and five steals.
GHEC hit 13 of 39 shots from 2-point range, only 6 of 23 behind the 3-point arc and 2 of 2 at the charity stripe.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (4-10, 3-6 Valley) travels to St. Clair on Monday night, while Truman/Martin Luther (9-7, 5-4) travels to Sleepy Eye Public next Thursday night.