FAIRMONT - The Fairmont Cardinals boys basketball team rebounded from a 32-32 tie at halftime to beat the Blue Earth Area Bucs 59-54 during a South Central Conference game on Friday night at Cardinal Gym in Fairmont.
Buc senior center Luke Monson, who score a game-high 18 points to go along with 15 rebounds, pulled down a rebound on Derek Johnson's missed 3-pointer and scored on the pu back to make it 57-54 with 4.6 seconds.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, the Bucs fouled Mitch Pfingsten, who scored a co-team high 16 points. Pfingsten converted on both ends of the one-and-one to seal the five-point victory.
BOARDWORK — Fairmont’s Ben Abel (23) pulls a rebound away from Blue Earth Area’s Kellen Jacobs (55) during South Central Conference basketball action Friday night at Cardinal Gym in Fairmont. The Cardinals’ Mitch Pfingsten (3) and the Bucs’ Bailey Olson watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"I thought that we were more patient with our offense in the second half," said Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson. "In the first half, we took good shots, but they wouldn't fall and in the second half, we waited until we got great shots and I think that made a difference."
The Bucs got on the board first in the second half when junior Derek Johnson sank the third of his four 3-pointers from the corner to put the visitors ahead 35-32.
After Kellen Jacobs banked home a shot inside the lane to put the Bucs on top 37-32, the Cardinal offense surged.
Josh Eversman, who scored 14 points, swished a 3 from the wing to cut the lead to 37-35.
"When Eversman hit that three, I really thought that could be a turning point in the game for them," said Blue Earth Area head coach Seth Anderson. "But I was really proud of our guys for not backing down. I think we've grown up and matured a lot this season and tonight it showed when we didn't back down."
Johnson, who finished with 14 points, responded for his final trifecta with 9:30 left in the game to even the score at 44-44.
Both teams traded baskets before Jay Ruen, who scored a co-team-high 16 points, drilled a 3 from the top of the key to give the Cardinals a 49-46 advantage.
"Defensively, in the second half, we switched things up a lot, trying to get them out of rhythm," said Thompson. "We tried to make Monson less of a factor, and keep him outside and that helped us do better on the boards in the second half."
Neither team managed to get out in front of the other as Conor Barnett drove to the basket for two of his four points for the Bucs before Pfingsten responded with a floater at the other end.
Eversman tried to give the Cardinals some momentum and stretch their lead, sinking another 3, but Monson responded with a basket inside the lane to keep the Bucs close with just over 5 minutes left to play.
Barnett drove from the top of the key and slid a pass to Monson on the block for the lay-in and cut the Bucs' deficit to 53-50 with 3:30 left on the clock.
"Offensively, we took good shots for each player tonight," said Anderson. "Our outside shooters were hitting their 3s, inside shooters were draining putbacks. This was our best passing game of the season tonight, not many turnovers and that helped us stay in it."
Pfingsten sank a floater 2 minutes later to put Fairmont ahead 55-50.
Anderson, the Bucs' mentor, called a timeout with just over a minute left in the game. On the inbounds play, Monson caught the pass from Barnett in the low post and flipped the shot in to make it 55-52.
The Bucs controlled most of the first half as Johnson and Monson combined for 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Barnett swiped a Cardinal pass and drove the length of the floor to go ahead 21-13 with 9:30 to go before half.
"Barnett is our best ball handler," said Anderson. "And even though he had just four points, I thought this was his best game so far. He played very well for us, and aside from a few errors we made early as a team, we were able to control the ball pretty well."
Pfingsten spotted Ruen two minutes later for the back door layup to cut the lead to 21-17.
Ben Abel, who scored seven points for the Cardinals, found Ruen on an inbounds pass to keep the home team within striking distance at 24-21.
Quinn Huisman scored his only points of the game for the Bucs with a jumper in the corner on the next possession, sinking a baseline jumper.
"We knew coming into the game that Monson would be a factor, he always is. But we wanted to try and make other guys beat us," said Thompson. "Early on, their players were making shots, and that's going to happen, but we responded and in the second half were able to hold them off."
The Cardinals held the Bucs scoreless on three straight possessions and at the 5-minute mark of the opening half, Ruen made a jumper to make it a one-point game, 26-25.
Johnson tied the game with just one minute left before half, swishing a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 32-all.
Jacobs finished with seven points for the Bucs, while Brandon Olson contributed five in the opening half.
In addition to his 14 points, Eversman also pulled down five rebounds for the Cardinals, while Nick Roggow netted four points.
Fairmont (14-3, 6-2 SCC) plays host to Pipestone Area at 4:30 p.m. today at Cardinal Gym.
Blue Earth Area (4-11, 3-5 SCC) hosts Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in a nonconference game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night in Blue Earth.
Windom Area 57, Martin County West - The Eagles outpaced the Mavericks to take home the 57-53 nonconference victory on Friday night in Trimont.
Jacob Gotto scored a team-leading 17 points, while Sam Huska poured in 13 more to pace the Eagles in the win.
Windom Area made 18 of 25 attempts from the charity stripe.
Cordell Weber scored a game-high 23 points to top the Mavericks offensive effort.
Jake Faber contributed 11 points and Alex Biehn chipped in 10 points for the Mavericks, who made 13 of 19 shots from the free throw line.
Martin County West (7-6, 5-2 Valley) travels to Minnesota Valley Lutheran for a nonconference game on Tuesday in New Ulm.
Windom (6-11) plays host to Jackson County Central in a 7:30 p.m. game on Tuesday night in Windom.