FAIRMONT - The Class 2A, No. 3-ranked Fairmont Cardinals had four players score in double figures to down the Blue Earth Area Bucs 75-60 to claim a share of the South Central Conference basketball championship on Tuesday night in Fairmont.
Fairmont, which improved to 20-3 overall via its 13th consecutive victory, holds a 9-0 conference mark with only No. 4-ranked St. Peter remaining on its SCC schedule on Feb. 28.
Mitch Pfingsten led the Cardinal charge, scoring 12 of his team-leading 17 points in the first half to go along with his six rebounds.
TO THE BASKET — Fairmont’s Mitch Pfingsten (second from right) and Jay Ruen (35) contest a shot by Blue Earth Area’s Brandyn Olsen during South Central Conference basketball action Tuesday night in Fairmont. Blue Earth Area’s Luke Monson (25) looks on. Photo by Leanna Becker
The Bucs took a 16-15 lead with 10:30 left in the opening half on Colin Squiers' 3 from the top of the key, but Pfingsten responded on the ensuing Cardinal possession with a trifecta from the corner to make it 18-15.
Isaac Darrington countered the Cardinal scoring success by sinking 8 of 15 shots, including 4 of 7 in the first half, for a game-high 21 points for the Bucs.
Junior Luke Monson added to Blue Earth Area's inside power game, generating 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the floor, along with two free throws.
"We knew coming into the game that they'd be a challenge for us defensively with their big guys inside the paint," Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson said of the Bucs' 6-foot-5 Monson and 6-4 duo of Darrington and Steven Plocker. "They balance out their inside guys with good shooters on the outside, but I thought we did well."
The Cardinal offense was also balanced, in addition to Pfingsten's points, Jay Ruen shot 6-for-11 from the floor and made 2 of 4 free throws to add 14 points to his team-leading seven boards.
Josh Eversman scored 13 points to join the double-figure scoring party, along with Bryce Holm, who light the scoreboard for 10 points along with nabbing six rebounds.
"Rebounding was huge for us tonight. We were able to battle inside the paint, especially in the first half, and limit their outside shots. But keeping them off the boards early was big," Thompson said of Fairmont's 18-13 rebounding edge at halftime.
Pfingsten and Holm scored on back-to-back possessions to help give the Cardinals a 35-26 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the opening half.
Pfingsten sank a 3 and then a Buc turnover led to an easy lay-in for Holm on the fastbreak as the home team worked toward a 39-28 halftime lead on the strength of 16-for-36 shooting.
"I thought the tempo was really in our favor. There was a lot of up-and-down, which is what we like. And we had a lot of guys scoring for us tonight, and we thought we'd need to score quite a few points to win," said Thompson.
Monson gave the Bucs a spark coming out of halftime, making three baskets along with grabbing seven of his team-leading 10 boards.
Pfingsten, Ruen and Holm combined for 10 points coming out of halftime to help the Cardinals maintain their double-digit lead.
Brandyn Olsen, who scored 12 points for the Bucs, sank a 3 from the top of the key and two free throws to make it a 10-point game with less than 10 minutes to play, but Fairmont's defense did the rest by maintaining the lead for the 15-point victory.
Ryan Noll and Levi Becker each tallied eight points for the Cardinals.
Fairmont travels to Luverne on Friday, while Blue Earth Area (9-10, 4-6 SCC) travels to Lake Crystal on Friday.
Tyler Tennyson scored 12 points to guide Fairmont to a 41-31 victory over Blue Earth Area during C-squad action on Monday in Fairmont.
Noah Quiring supplied eight points and six rebounds for the Cardinals, while Chris Andrews chipped in six points. Clayton Maakestad and Josh Liljenquist each added five points.
Waseca edged Fairmont, 39-37, during C-squad action last Thursday night in Waseca.
Josh Liljenquist produced nine points, six steals and four assists to top the Cardinals, while Tyler Tennyson contributed 14 points and three steals.
Noah Quiring added six points, seven rebounds and four steals for Fairmont.