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New Ulm, no problem

Bucs claim home opener, 66-61

December 4, 2016
Cody Benjamin - Register Staff Writer ( , Faribault County Register

Junior guard Blake Barnett dropped 32 points, the Buccaneers rallied from a six-point halftime deficit and the Blue Earth Area boys basketball team cruised to a season-opening victory over New Ulm Thursday night, starting the year with a 66-61 decision.

Missed free throws and passing errors frequented the evening on both sides of the court, but for a BEA lineup featuring new full-time starters at all five positions, the Bucs pieced together enough offense to open the season with a promising "W."

"The first game of the year, there are going to be a lot of things that don't look pretty," said BEA coach Colby Swanson. "But the second half, we pressured them fairly well, and it turned into some easy points for us."

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In Barnett's case, it turned into more than 30 points, to be exact, and his performance deemed "outstanding" by Swanson helped fuel a second-half run by the maroon and gold.

Back-to-back layups by the guard after a three-point shot by senior Logan Jahnke early in the second half gave BEA the advantage, and a follow-up trey by Chris Sanders extended the Bucs' run of unanswered points to 10, giving the team a 42-38 advantage.

The visiting Eagles did not bow down as the game wore on, narrowing the BEA lead to two later in the half, but a behind-the-back pass from Caelan Sanders to Barnett led to another layup by the Bucs' leading scorer and put the home team ahead 46-44.

A pair of Collin Bell three-pointers shortly afterward lifted BEA to a 52-46 edge, and Jahnke then took his turn as the Bucs' athletic offensive standout with an acrobatic shot in the paint to give the Buccaneers a 10-point lead.

Rebounds from Bell, Sanders and senior Jacob Vaske contributed to the Bucs' second-half turnaround, too, and Swanson took note of the team's late improvements on defense.

"We did better than expected rebounding," he said. "Defending is still probably the No. 1 area of concern, but the guys had very good energy and came off the bench and contributed."

Bell, Barnett, Jahnke, Vaske and Sanders each entered Thursday's contest as new regular starters for a squad that graduated every one of its first-string players after the 2015-16 campaign, and senior forward Joe Ritter was also called upon heavily as the night went on, substituting on multiple occasions and chipping into BEA's rebounding totals.

The Buccaneers (1-0) return to the hardwood on Monday, Dec. 5, when they are slated to travel to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial. After Monday's game, the team is set to visit Fairmont High School on Dec. 9 before hosting back-to-back contests on Dec. 16 and 22 against Waseca and Belle Plaine, respectively.



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