FAIRMONT - Fresh off the program's first appearance in the Minnesota weekly state basketball poll since 2007, Fairmont faced its first challenge as the 10th-ranked girls team in Class 2A.
The Cardinals' turnover-creating defense, however, triggered a momentum-swinging 18-0 run with 12 minutes left in regulation to transform a five-point deficit into an eventual 41-32 triumph over the scrappy Blue Earth Area Bucs on Friday night in Fairmont.
"The girls turned it up a notch defensively after we called timeout," Fairmont mentor Don Waletich said in reference to his lineup forcing 10 Blue Earth Area miscues during the final 12 minutes of the South Central Conference clash. "We struggled offensively tonight, but our second-half defense really bailed us out again.
CHALLENGE — Fairmont’s Sierra Schultz (33) challenges a jumpshot by Blue Earth Area’s Karli Olsen as the Bucs’ Paige Darrington and the Cardinals’ Alex Christianson (35) battle for rebounding position during South Central Conference basketball action Friday night at Cardinal Gym. Fairmont’s Kayla Lardy (53), Kristen Campe (25) and Courtney Mosloski (right), along with Blue Earth Area’s Kaitlyn Olsen (back right) and Taylor Grandgenett (front right), look on. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"We created about three straight (Buc) turnovers and Sierra (Schultz) got the hot hand offensively for us during that stretch. I thought Kristen Campe played phenomenal defense during that span for us, too."
Trailing 19-17 at intermission, Blue Earth Area stormed out of the lockerroom to outpoint Fairmont 9-2 during the initial stages of the second half.
Jenna Stevermer hit back-to-back runners before Kaitlyn Olsen drained a pull-up 12-footer and the second of her three 3-pointers on the game to stake the Bucs to a 26-21 lead.
Alex Christianson, who delivered eight points and eight rebounds, utilized a 360-degree spin move in traffic to bank home a basket to serve as the Cardinals' catalyst to their double-figure scoring surge.
Campe, who distributed a game-best five assists, alertly followed her own miss for a putback basket before Christianson spotted Courtney Mosloski for a baseline jumper to swing a 27-26 lead to Fairmont with 9:34 left in regulation.
Campe then spotted Kayla Lardy for a low-post leaner before Lardy garnered one of her three steals at the defensive end. Emily Kim then fired a pass to Schultz for a net-snapping 3-pointer from the left corner for a 32-26 edge with 7:39 remaining.
After a Buc timeout, Schultz drove the left baseline, hung in mid-air and banked home an angled glider for two of her team-best 10 points.
Schultz later swooshed another trifecta off a Campe assist before Lardy alertly fired a pinpoint pass from midcourt to a breaking Campe for a layup and 39-26 lead with 4 minutes to go.
Jenna Stevermer's putback basket ended the Bucs' scoreless span at the 3:20 juncture before Schultz converted a one-and-one situation with 58 seconds remaining.
Kaitlyn Olsen, who produced game-bests of 13 points and nine rebounds, drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from near midcourt to close out the game.
Jenna Stevermer finished with 11 points and three steals for the Bucs.
Lardy collected five points, eight rebounds and three steals for the Cardinals, while Schultz pulled down eight boards to complement her 10-point effort.
Fairmont (16-3, 7-0 SCC) plays host to Pipestone at 3 p.m. today at Cardinal Gym.
Blue Earth Area (6-8, 2-5) travels to Waseca on Thursday night.
B.E. Area 17-15-32
Christianson 3-5 2-2 8, Mosloski 3-12 0-0 6, Lardy 1-6 3-4 5, Campe 3-10 0-0 7, Schultz 3-6 2-2 10, Kim 1-5 0-0 2, Schrader 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 15-47 8-10 41.
B.E. AREA (32)
J. Stevermer 5-17 0-0 11, Kaitlyn Olsen 4-12 2-4 13, Darrington 0-2 2-5 2, Karli Olsen 0-6 0-0 0, Grandgenett 1-4 0-1 2, Robertson 1-1 0-0 2, S. Olson 0-1 0-0 0, S. Stevermer 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 12-45 4-10 32.
3-pointers: BEA 4-14 (Kaitlyn Olsen 3-5, J. Stevermer 1-6, Karli Olsen 0-2, Darrington 0-1); FHS 3-9 (Schultz 2-3, Campe 1-6). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: FHS 34 (Christianson, Lardy and Schultz 8 each); BEA 32 (Kaitlyn Olsen 9, Darrington 8). Assists: FHS 10 (Campe 5); BEA 5 (Grandgenett 3). Steals: BEA 9 (J. Stevermer 3); FHS 6 (Lardy 3).
Martin County West 65, Alden-Conger 46 - Kate Thiesse recorded a double-double performance of 18 points and 10 boards to help the Mavericks down the Knights 65-46 during Valley Conference action on Friday night in Alden.
Thiesse also pocketed three steals and doled out three assists for the Mavericks, who made 27 of 66 shots from the floor.
Taryn Tumbleson poured in 13 points and made five steals in addition to passing out three assists for MCW.
Reilly Geistfeld scored nine points and pulled down a team-leading 12 rebounds, while Madyson Larson netted eight points in the win.
The Mavericks made 9 of 18 free throws on the game.
Leslie Theusch scored 16 points for the Knights.
Martin County West (13-1, 8-0 Valley) travels to Mankato Loyola on Monday in a battle of conference unbeatens.
North Union 47, Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire 32 - The Warriors fended off the Titans in a 47-32 Corn Belt Conference victory on Friday night in Armstrong.
Sarah Rolling scored a team-leading 21 points and pulled down five rebounds, while teammate Aurora Oliver poured in 11 points for the Warriors.
Peyton Oleson generated seven points and pocketed three steals, while Dena Looft grabbed five boards doled out three assists and made three steals.
North Union made 15 of 34 shots inside the arc, hit 2 of 9 from 3-point land and added 11 of 24 free throws.
North Union (7-4, 4-1 Corn Belt) travels to play Clay Central-Everly at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Everly.
GTRA 5 7 9 11-32
NU 14 8 12 13-47
Martin Luther 47, Madelia 44 - The Knights fended off the Blackhawks 47-44 during Valley Conference basketball action on Friday in Madelia.
Kayley Shoen scored a co-team-high 16 points in addition to pulling down five rebounds and making three steals for the Knights.
Alexis Brummond also added a co-team high 16 points to go with three steals and six boards for the Knights. Amber Schulz pulled down a team-leading 14 rebounds in the win.
Danielle Arndt scored a team-high 15 points for the Blackhawks, while teammate Melody Colon poured in 13 points.
Martin Luther (6-7, 5-3 Valley) plays host to Mankato Loyola in a conference game on Tuesday night in Northrop.