MANKATO - The number three proved significant behind the Fairmont boys basketball team capturing the Bethany Lutheran College holiday invitational's championship on Saturday night.
The Class 2A, No. 3-ranked Cardinals merited three all-tournament selections en route to defeating the St. Clair Cyclones, 85-59, during the three-day event's finale at the North Gym on the Mankato-based school's campus.
It also was Fairmont's third consecutive appearance in the annual holiday tourney's championship contest, but first-ever first-place finish. Maple River edged Fairmont for the top team hardware in both 2012 and 2011.
CLEANING?THE?GLASS — Fairmont’s Josh Eversman (center) goes up against St. Clair’s Ryan Kruse (25) for a rebound during the Bethany Lutheran College Tournament championship on Saturday in Mankato. Fairmont’s Nick Roggow (41), Jay Ruen (35) and St. Clair’s Michael Berry (55) look on. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Point guard Mitch Pfingsten, who dons the No. 3 jersey, joined teammates Josh Eversman and Jay Ruen in earning all-tourney individual accolades as the Cardinal trio finished one point shy of a triple double-double effort in the 26-point victory over the Cyclones.
Ironically, Pfingsten drilled a 3-pointer to trigger Fairmont's incredible 16-2 game-opening surge, while the Cardinals' smothering defense held St. Clair scoreless on its first nine shots from the floor during the clash's first 7 minutes.
Pfingsten produced five of his game-best 27 points and garnered three of his 10 boards, Eversman notched seven of his 25 points and hauled in four of his game-best 11 boards, while Ruen tallied two of his nine points and grabbed three of his 10 rebounds during the initial tempo-setting sequence.
"We put together four really good halves of basketball in a row over the past two days," Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson said in reference to his lineup's 70-39 semifinal win over Mankato Loyola on Friday night prior to Saturday night's triumph. "Overall as a team, we rebounded well on both ends of the court (a 50-26 edge), and played really good defense for the second straight game.
"I do, however, realize that they (St. Clair) didn't shoot the ball as well as they can tonight either."
Cyclones mentor Charles Freitag agreed with his coaching counterpart's post-game analysis.
"This is a great holiday tournament, but playing top competition over three straight days can take a lot (of energy) out of a team. We just didn't have our legs under us tonight and that affected our shooting," Freitag said in reference to his team's 19-for-62 field-goal shooting performance for 31 percent on the night.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, after Brandon Goebel drilled a right-corner 3 at the 11-minute mark to halt the Cardinals' game-opening run at 16-2, Pfingsten and Ruen combined for an ensuing 12-3 run to extend their team's margin to 28-8 with 7:30 left before halftime.
"I thought every one of our guys did a nice job of moving the ball to the open man tonight and that allowed us to get a lot of good looks at the basket," said Thompson, whose lineup blistered the North Gym nets for 54 percent overall - 32 of 59 - including a 62-percent second-half shooting effort - 13 of 21.
All-tournament choice Ryan Kruse, who produced a team-best double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds, drilled the first of his three 3-pointers with 51 seconds remaining in the first half to temporarily swing the momentum to St. Clair.
Kruse opened the second half by converting Goebel's low-entry pass into a traditional 3-point play before driving the lane for two more points.
Goebel, who finished with eight points, then tossed in a baseline jumper to reduce the Cyclones' deficit to 44-32 via his team's 10 unanswered points bridging intermission.
Eversman and the Cardinals, however, erupted for a 15-0 run over the ensuing four and a half minutes to rebuild their lead to 27 by the 12-minute juncture.
Eversman sank two free throws, Luke Becker drained a right-wing jumper, Ruen spotted Eversman for a layup off an inbound play and Pfingsten delivered one of his game-high seven assists to Eversman for a traditional 3-point play off a screen-and-roll.
Nick Roggow snapped the nets on a 15-footer from the left elbow before Eversman delivered two more free throws and a top-of-the-key 2-pointer for a 59-32 edge.
St. Clair did not any closer than 21 points for the rest of the game.
Fairmont (10-1, 3-1 South Central) travels to St. James on Friday, Jan. 3.
St. Clair (8-3) plays host to Maple River on Monday, Jan. 6.
The Fairmont Cardinal junior varsity boys basketball team captured third place at the Bethany Lutheran College holiday invitational on Saturday in Mankato.
Walker Tordsen scored 15 points and Derek Hunwardsen netted 14 points to guide Fairmont to a 61-28 victory over Maple River in the third-place game on Saturday.
Kale Fritz contributed seven points to the Cardinals' winning ways.
Fairmont opened the tournament with a 41-26 win over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial on Thursday. Nate Johnson scored 17 points to top the Cardinals, while Cole Emler, Parker Monsen, Dustin Slaughter and Kale Fritz each chipped in five points.
Mankato Loyola downed Fairmont in Friday's semifinal, 45-31. Monsen scored 11 points to top the Cardinals, while Emler and Tordsen added five points each.
Blue Earth Area Invite
United South Central 65, Blue Earth Area 43 - The Rebels captured the Blue Earth Area Invite title, beating the host Bucs 65-43 on Saturday in Blue Earth.
Luke Trio delivered a team-leading 22 points, while Nate Pederson scored 13 for the Rebels' winning ways.
Luke Monson netted a game-high 29 points, grabbed five rebounds and made four blocks for the Bucs in the game.
Bailey Olson added five points and six rebounds, while Kellen Jacobs recorded six points and eight rebounds in the final.
The Bucs made 18 of 34 attempts from the floor, but were unable to hold off the Rebels.
Blue Earth Area (2-6, 1-3 SCC) plays host to St. Peter in a 7:30 p.m. conference game on Friday in Blue Earth.
Jackson County Central 65, Granada-Huntley-East Chain 64 - The Huskies escaped the Blue Earth Area Invite with third place as they outlasted the Mustangs 65-64 on Saturday in Blue Earth.
Zach Schwarting scored a team-leading 18 points, while Jon Harmening added 14 for the Huskies who made 15 of 29 shots from inside the arc.
Jackson County Central also made 8 of 17 from the free throw line and 9 of 26 from 3.
Darnell Taylor-Breck and Brady Place each contributed ten points to the Huskies' winning ways.
Logan Pytleski scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down six rebounds for the Mustangs who made 25 of 46 from 2.
Ryan Shumski netted 18 points and grabbed seven boards, while Trent Stensland tallied 11 points and doled out four assists in the game.
Josh Wolter had a double-double performance of 10 points and 10 boards, in addition to making four steals and distributing three assists.
The Mustangs sank 3 of 10 attempts from behind the 3-point line and swished 5 of 13 free throws in the game.
Jared Green distributed a team-leading eight assists for the Mustangs in the game.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (2-5, 2-2 Valley) travels to play Fairmont in a nonconference game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Cardinal Gym.
Jackson County Central (5-5) travels to play Martin County West in a nonconference game at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Trimont.
Redwood Valley Tournament
The third-place game of Martin County West against Lakeview on Saturday was cancelled due to blizzard conditions in Redwood Falls.