The Blue Earth Area Buccaneers almost did it; they almost upset the No. 1-seeded team in their South Section 2A Tournament last Tuesday night in Windom.
But, the Fairmont Cardinals were the ones who walked away with a narrow 61-57 victory over the Bucs.
In Luke Monson's last game wearing maroon and gold, he contributed 24 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort.
Early on, it was BEA applying pressure to the No. 1-seeded Cardinals.
"We were playing well and doing what we needed to do, but at the same time we knew the game was a long ways from being over," coach Seth Anderson explained.
Fairmont relied on two three-pointers from Mitch Pfingsten (who scored his 2,000th point) early to capture a 14-11 edge.
The Bucs then went on a 13-3 run. During the span, Monson scored 10 consecutive points and BEA guard Derek Johnson hit one of his five three-pointers. The Cardinals struggled and only made 1 of 8 shots during the Buccaneers run, giving the maroon and gold a 24-17 advantage.
BEA ended the first half leading the Class AA, No. 7 ranked Cardinals 32-25.
Johnson helped sustain the Bucs' lead in the second half with four three-pointers.
Monson's layup off the glass gave the Buccaneers a nine-point advantage, 50-41.
Fairmont then scored six unanswered points, narrowing the Bucs' lead.
Cardinals guard Josh Eversman gave Fairmont the lead back with six points of his own, 56-55.
After Bailey Olson stole a Cardinal pass and went coast-to-coast for two, BEA once again took the lead, 57-56.
With 1:30 remaining in the Section game, Pfingsten who scored a game-high 25 points helped Fairmont regain the lead for good. He spotted teammate Jay Ruen in the corner for a three-pointer to make the score 59-57.
Anderson called a timeout with a minute remaining. The Bucs failed to convert on their possession and were forced to foul Pfingsten, who made 1 of 2 free throws.
With 17 seconds remaining in the game, BEA turned the ball over on the inbound play and were forced to foul Pfingsten again; he made 1 of 2 free throws again, but it gave the Cardinals a two possession lead.
The maroon and gold shot the ball well from the floor going 21 of 39 (54 percent), while the Cardinals also made 21 field goals, but put in four more three-pointers. Fairmont finished 21 of 62 (34 percent).
BEA senior Quinn Huisman finished his last game as a Buccaneer with six points on 3 of 4 shooting.
The Buccaneers finished the season with an 11-14 mark.
"We led all the way until the final minute. It was a real heart breaker not being able to finish it," Anderson says.
Anderson admits his first year of coaching went by in a hurry and the kids he worked with made his job very enjoyable.
"They worked hard every day and bought into what we were trying to do as a team," he says. " I think the most memorable part of the season was to see the kids reach the understanding that we could compete with the best teams. I don't think any team improved as much as ours did."
Fairmont (22-4) will continue on to face No. 2-seeded St. James (21-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for the Section 3AA, South Sub-Section championship.
BEA 65, LCWM 55
The Blue Earth Area boys basketball team led by as many as 14 points in their opening Section 3A contest versus Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial.
But, in the final minutes, LCWM inched closer and knocked down back-to-back three-pointers, giving the Knights their first lead of the game.
Buccaneer guard Derek Johnson answered with a three of his own, which sparked an 8-0 run to finish the game for BEA.
The Bucs' defeated the Knights 65-55 on Feb. 22 in Lake Crystal to advance in the Section tournament.
Senior forward Luke Monson had a monster game; he finished with 36 points on 15 of 20 shooting and hauled in 25 rebounds (12 offensive).
The last time these two faced each other, the maroon and gold came away with the 63-38 victory, which started their season-high five game win streak. Monson scored 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in that contest, which took place on Jan. 28.
It was Monson's sixth game this season with 30 or more points and third with 20 or more rebounds.
"We talked a lot about making the easy pass and taking care of the ball as the most important thing," coach Seth Anderson says.
The Bucs, who struggled during the regular season to get off to solid starts, jumped out to an early 15-9 lead thanks to Monson making his first seven field goals.
The Buccaneers scored eight straight points and Monson grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored to give BEA their largest lead of the night, 35-21 late in the first half.
But, to end the half, LCWM outscored the Bucs 14-7 and cut their earlier lead in half, 42-35.
The Knights started the second half the same way they ended the first half with a quick 10-3 run, which tied the game at 45-45.
Bailey Olson helped the maroon and gold regroup and led a 5-0 run to regain the lead for the visiting Bucs. Olson also scored in double figures, finishing the game with 12 points.
For the game, BEA shot 48 percent, but struggled from the free throw line, only converting on 57 percent of their shots (13 of 23).