Entering Monday's Sub-section final, the Blue Earth Area girls basketball team knew they had their hands full.
Their opponent, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, was a perfect 28-0 on the year, their average margin of victory was just shy of 30 points a game and they had beaten BEA 59-43 in their first matchup Feb. 13.
Despite facing tough odds, the Buccaneers made the Panthers work for their 29th straight victory of the year.
Camille Driscoll drives to the bucket against NRHEG.
In the end though, NRHEG proved too savvy for BEA, and their unblemished record remained in tact with a 69-50 triumph.
"The girls played their hearts out in this game," says BEA head coach Al Cue. "We just couldn't get enough shots to fall or get enough stops on defense."
NRHEG's standout player, Carlie Wagner in particular was difficult to stop. The 5-foot-10 sophomore poured in 35 points, going 14 of 24 from the field.
Wagner handled BEA's defensive pressure and used devastating drives to the basket and jump shots to dismantle the Bucs. The Division I recruit also had six rebounds, six steals and three assists to compliment her stellar night on the offensive end of the floor.
Despite the gaudy statistics from Carlie, it was another Wagner who hit the biggest shot of the game.
After trailing 34-23 at halftime, BEA stormed within six points (36-30) when Camille Driscoll came up with a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup with 14:04 remaining in the game.
On the next possession, NRHEG seventh grader Maddie Wagner dialed up a trey sparking a decisive 8-point run.
After the Maddie Wagner three, the closest the Bucs would get is within nine points when Driscoll corralled an offensive rebound and sank a jumper with 11:29 left in the game.
From that point on, the Panthers kept up the offensive pressure and Wagner scored 15 of NRHEG's final 25 points to close out the game and end BEA's season.
"NRHEG is a very, very good team and there is no shame in losing to them," says Cue. "This team (BEA) should be proud of what they accomplished this season." Driscoll led the Bucs with 20 points, shooting a scintillating four of five from 3-point land.
The senior also snagged 11 rebounds to record a double-double in her final game with BEA.
Other scoring leaders for the Bucs were Krista Hassing with nine points, Sara Warmka with seven and Allie Curtis with six.
With the loss, BEA finished the year at 20-6 overall.
The Bucs were playing some of their best basketball near the end of the season, highlighted by their 71-68 victory over Southland in the Sub-section semifinals.
The end of the year also marks the conclusion of eight seniors' fantastic careers at BEA.
Coach Cue says Jenny Smith, Driscoll, Nicole Carr, Warmka, Gretchen Klinkner, Courtney Grandgenett, Curtis and Kristine Volz will all be really missed next year.
"They are good basketball players, great leaders and outstanding young ladies," Cue says. "They will continue to be successful in the future."