FAIRMONT - Mitch Pfingsten has made numerous clutch shots throughout his prep basketball career, but his pair of buzzer-beating field goals on Saturday proved even a rarity for Fairmont's all-time leading scorer.
The 6-foot-1 Pfingsten drained a 35-footer just before the horn sounded to knot the Class 2A, No. 6-ranked Cardinals' game with the Byron Bears at 61 at the end of the first overtime at Cardinal Gym.
Pfingsten then tossed in a last-second runner in the lane - the final two points of his game-high 37 - during the second overtime to propel Fairmont to a 67-66 nonconference victory over Byron in an edge-of-the-bleachers classic in Fairmont.
GUARDED GUARD — Fairmont’s Luke Becker (5) steps out to defend Byron guard Buster Meyer during nonconference boys basketball action on Saturday at Cardinal Gym. Fairmont’s Mitch Pfingsten (3) defends against Byron’s Tyler Coble (left). The Cardinals went on to win the game, 67-66, on Pfingsten’s last-second shot in double overtime. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
But Pfingsten was not the only player to hit a heroic shot on Saturday as Bears' 5-10 guard Buster Meyer connected on a left-wing 3-pointer - his sixth trey of the night - with 16 seconds remaining in regulation to force the initial extra session.
"I don't think anyone asked for their money back after watching this one," Cardinal mentor Jared Thompson said with a smile in reference to the clash of titans that featured a dozen ties.
After Meyer's late trifecta created the initial extra 4 minutes of hardwood action, Byron actually grabbed an early four-point lead - 59-55 - during the first overtime, but a pair of missed free throws during the final 33 seconds proved costly for the Bears.
In fact, Byron made only 10 of 20 foul shots during the second half and two overtimes en route to a 17-for-34 performance on the game.
Pfingsten hit the back end of a two-shot foul situation and later pick-pocketed Byron for a steal-turned-layup to inch Fairmont within one with 38 seconds showing in the first OT.
The Cardinals fouled Bears forward Kip Knutson just 5 seconds later to create a one-and-one situation. Knutson, who finished with 16 points, hit the front end before missing the next charity toss.
After committing a turnover at the 15-second juncture, the Cardinals were forced to foul the sharpshooting Meyer with 9.4 seconds showing. Meyer, who poured in a team-best 24 points, hit only one of two free throws for a 61-58 lead with 9.4 seconds to go.
"We had a timeout left after he (Meyer) missed the second free throw. The question was, 'Do we call it (timeout) with about 8 seconds left and set up a play, or let Mitch create if he gets a kickout (pass) or grabs the rebound?'" Thompson said. "He's hit a lot of big shots in his career, so we (coaching staff) figured if he wants it (last shot), let him take it. And like he has in the past, he hit it to force a second overtime."
After Josh Eversman garnered the defensive rebound, Pfingsten drove the left side of the court and launched a bull's-eye 3-pointer from a couple of strides inside the midcourt line as time elapsed.
Ben Abel's offensive putback basket then staked the Cardinals to a 63-61 lead in the second OT before Meyer drained a 3 and Knutson sank two free throws to swing a three-point lead to the Bears.
Pfingsten, however, hit a runner with 1:33 remaining to narrow Fairmont's gap to 66-65. The Cardinals then were forced to foul the Bears and the strategy paid dividends as Byron missed four free throws in a row down the stretch before Pfingsten drove the lane and tossed in the game-winning runner with just less than a second remaining.
Luke Becker delivered 10 points off the Fairmont bench, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers during the second half, Abel chipped in six points and five boards in a key reserve role, while Eversman finished with eight points and a co-game-high eight rebounds.
Evan Richardson added 10 points and a co-game-high eight rebounds to the Bears' effort.
Fairmont (6-1, 2-1 South Central) plays host to conference rival St. Peter on Friday night.
Byron (6-2) plays host to Kasson-Mantorville on Tuesday night.
Mankato Loyola 81, Granada-Huntley-East Chain 58 - Ryan Van Blarcom and Carson Seifert scored 25 and 22 points, respectively, to pace the Crusaders in an 81-58 victory over the Mustangs on Saturday in Mankato.
Van Blarcom and Seifert led the Crusaders, who trailed 40-39 at halftime, to score 42 second-half points on the strength of a 30-for-54 shooting performance from the floor.
Reilly Knutson netted 14 points for the Crusaders, who swished 12 of 21 free throws and grabbed 27 rebounds as a team.
Trent Stensland led the Mustangs' offensive efforts by scoring 16 points and grabbing seven boards, while teammates Josh Wolter and Ryan Shumski scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Josh Johanson doled out six assists, in addition to scoring nine points, for the Mustangs, who made 21 of 39 shots from the floor.
Jared Green swiped three steals, grabbed six rebounds and distributed four assists for the Mustangs, who pulled down 26 rebounds.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (1-3, 1-2 Valley) plays host to Cleveland in a at 7:30 p.m. game on Thursday in East Chain.