The Fairmont boys basketball team left the Blue Earth Area hardwood with a 57-43 victory Tuesday evening, but the Buccaneers made the Cardinals fight for everything they earned.
The two rivals battled back and forth for the majority of the game and with nine minutes to play, a Sam Lee putback gave BEA a 36-34 advantage.
Shortly after the Bucs established their final lead, a raucous BEA home crowd was silenced when Fairmont's next two possessions resulted in sophomore Mitch Pfingsten connecting on consecutive 3-point baskets.
The talented guard unleashed two bombs from beyond the arc to shift the entire complexion of the game.
"Their threes and free throws were really pivotal," says BEA head coach Gary Holmseth. "Those were two areas where we were unable to cash in on."
BEA was 0 for 10 from 3-point territory while Fairmont was 7 for 12.
From the free-throw line BEA was 11 for 21 and Fairmont was 16 for 21.
"A couple of the threes we got caught helping out too much on defense," Holmseth says. "You can't fault our guys for helping out."
With assistance from the initial strikes, Fairmont closed out the game on a 20 to 7 run.
Spurring the point swing were four Cardinal 3-pointers in a span of three minutes two from Pfingsten, one from Kevin Hanson and another from Jay Ruen.
BEA kept pace with Fairmont's torrid shooting from beyond the perimeter by crashing the boards. The Buccaneers out-rebounded the Cardinals 50 to 37 and nabbed extra opportunities by securing 14 offensive rebounds.
"I thought we outworked them," Holmseth says. "It was a super effort from our guys on the boards. Every loose ball was ours."
Reaping the rewards of cleaning up on the glass was BEA's Sam Lee. The 6-foot-5 center had a team-high 12 points with many of his baskets coming off offensive rebounds.
Teammate Steven Plocker had a solid night in his own right translating offensive rebounds into points.
Plocker scored eight first half points from his post position in an attempt to keep pace with Fairmont's Levi Becker.
In the opening frame, the 6-foot-1 Cardinal exploded for 14 points, but BEA countered late in the first half.
The Bucs erased an early 12-point Cardinal lead with hard-earned buckets inside resulting in a chance to tie the game up heading into halftime.
Until the final decisive Fairmont run, the lead seesawed with both teams attacking and countering.
In the end, the four threes proved to be too much to overcome and Fairmont left the gym with their ninth South Central Conference win of the year.
With the loss, the Bucs fell to 7-14 overall and 4-6 in the SCC.
BEA 65, New Ulm 60
Sam Lee led the Blue Earth Area boys basketball team in scoring for the fourth consecutive game Friday and in the process helped boost his team to a 65-60 South Central Conference victory over New Ulm.
During Lee's latest scoring outburst, the 6-foot-5 center recorded a double-double pouring in 16 points and snatching 13 rebounds allowing BEA to improve their record to 7-13 on the season.
Strong inside play from Lee and Isaac Darrington allowed the Bucs to establish a big lead early on.
BEA enjoyed a 34-18 advantage at the break due in large part because of 11 first-half points by Darrington.
Out of halftime, the Bucs scored four unanswered points to build their largest lead of the game.
Just when it looked like the lead would be blown wide open, the Eagles countered.
New Ulm switched to a zone defense in an effort to slow down BEA's formidable inside attack. The strategy worked and the Eagles went on a 22-6 run to cut the lead to 44-40.
Despite adversity, the Bucs held tough and never surrendered their sustained advantage.
A conventional 3-point play from Lee and clutch free throws down the stretch cemented the victory.
To seal the 65-60 win, Dallas Barslou sunk two free throws with 16 seconds left and BEA left New Ulm with their fourth SCC win of the year.
Besides Lee, BEA received double-digit scoring performances from Darrington and Barslou.
After the strong start, Darrington finished with 15 points. Barslou scored 12 from his shooting guard position.
Feeding the leading scorers was senior Jake Wagner. The 6-foot guard had four assists to kick-start the team's offense.
Leading the Eagles was senior guard Andy Hawkins who finished with a game-high 19 points.
Overall, BEA was 25 of 57 from the field and 15 of 32 from the free-throw line.
In comparison, New Ulm was 20 of 60 from the field and 15 of 20 from the charity stripe.