The Blue Earth Area Buccaneers used the free-throw line to defeat the Granada-Huntley-East Chain Mustangs Thursday night, 56-51, in boys basketball holiday tournament action in Blue Earth.
The win propelled the Buccaneers into Friday night's championship game where they will face the Jackson County Central Huskies, 72-64 winners over the United South Central Rebels in the first game on Thursday.
The Mustangs and the Rebels faced off in the first game on Friday, the Bucs and Huskies in the second. Both games were after this week's deadline and will be reported in the next Faribault County Register.
The Bucs Luke Monson gets a shot off despite GHEC’s Konnor Kristenson’s tight defense
The game between the Bucs and Mustangs stayed close throughout the game, with BEA enjoying a slight lead through most of the contest.
But, the game slowed down in a long second half that became a march to the free-throw line.
In the game, the Bucs and Mustangs combined for 54 shots from the charity stripe with the Bucs hitting 23 of their 31 tries, and the 'Stangs making 18 of their 23 shots.
"It was pretty ugly, we won ugly," Buc coach Randy Kuechenmeister said afterwards. "But, that is who we are at this point in the season, and we will take the win."
The Bucs used the hot hand of center Luke Monson to gain an early 15-8 lead, including a Monson three-point shot.
But, the Mustangs countered the Buc attack, like they did all game, and came back to tie the score at 15 all.
Two Monson free-throws put BEA back in the lead, but again, GHEC used four free-throws of their own to take a 19-17 lead, the only time in the entire game that they would be ahead of the Buccaneers.
The Bucs countered with 10 unanswered points and took a 27-19 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the second half the Bucs saw an eight point lead, 34-26, evaporate and the Mustangs once again tied the game at 34-34.
BEA kept a slight edge the rest of the way out, leading by as many as seven.
But as time started running out, the Mustangs kept it tight.
With Monson fouling out with three minutes to go, GHEC trailed by just three at 48-45. Then Brandyn Olsen, the Bucs leading scorer in the game, also fouled out.
With 45 seconds to go, the Mustangs trailed by only two, 51-49.
A steady Derek Johnson went to the free-throw line twice and calmly sank four shots to seal the win for the Bucs.
It was his only points in the game, but they came at the perfect time.
Olsen led the Bucs with 20 points. Monson added 17 and Steven Plocker was the third BEA player in double figures with 10.
Konnor Kristenson was top scorer for the Mustangs with 15 and Ryan Shumski added 13.
JCC 72, USC 64
Both the Huskies and the Rebels had spurts in the game which gave them opportunities to win.
The Huskies led by as many as 10 points in the game.
The Rebels came back to erase the margin, then took a 10-point lead of their own.
JCC came back, however and took home the victory, and earning a spot in the final game on Friday.
Cole Stencel led the Rebels with 23 points
USC and GHEC were set to face off at 6 p.m. on Friday to play for third place.