It’s something that hasn’t happened in the history of Blue Earth Area Schools.
The Buccaneer girls basketball team won the Section 2AA Tournament on Friday, March 13, defeating the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva girls 43-38.
The win sends them to their first ever state tournament appearance, as no BEA girls basketball team has ever gone to the state tournament. The last time the boys team went to state was 53 years ago.
The basketball game on Friday at Mankato East was exciting from start to finish, and was not decided until the final seconds of the game.
The Bucs were behind by seven points at halftime, 23-16. They opened the second half with a 15-2 run that put them ahead – and they never trailed again.
But with 12.7 seconds left in the game, the Bucs led by just one point, 39-38. Sophomore guard Ashley Olson was at the line and calmly swished both free throws to give the Bucs a 3-point lead.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Olson said after the game. “I just knew I had to make them.”
The Panthers lost the ball at half court on the ensuing inbounds, and Olson came up with it – nailing a layup in the final seconds to seal the 5-point win and the state trip.
“I am very proud of these girls,” Buc Coach Al Cue said. “They put together a string of four solid games and now they are the first BEA team to play in the state tournament.”
The Bucs quickly went up 4-0 to start the game, but it stayed close for much of the first half. The game was tied at 5-5, 12-12 then 13-13.
BEA took the lead at 14-13, but it was the last point they would score for several minutes. NRHEG went on a 10-2 run in the final three minutes of the half for their 23-16 advantage at the break.
The Bucs came out on fire in the second half, on both ends of the court.
Offensively, a couple of baskets by Hayley Pirsig, and three by Jackie Klinkner – including a 3-point play – sparked the big run.
It had started with a basket by Olson, and ended with one by Kate Hassing.
Suddenly the Bucs were up 31-23. The Panthers finally got a score seven and a half minutes into the half.
NRHEG went on a 6-0 run to close the gap to 31-29. They stayed close for the next few minutes, as BEA attempted to run time off the clock each time they had a possession.
With under a minute left, the Bucs were up by four at 39-35. A Panther 3-pointer cut it to one point at 39-38, and 31 seconds left.
After that, the Bucs shut down the Panthers, and Olson went on to seal the win.
“Our defensive intensity was very good, especially in the second half.” Cue says. “We switched our defense a bit at halftime and that really seemed to give them trouble.”
Cue says the Buc girls controlled the boards better as the game wore on. BEA had 37 rebounds to NRHEG’s 28.
“Offensively I thought our patience was good on most possessions,” Cue explains. “We did a good job of shortening the game with some long possessions in the last 10 minutes.”
Pirsig led the Bucs with 16 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals.
Klinkner added 10 points, and also had seven rebounds.
Morgan Dickman had seven points, including BEA’s single 3-pointer all night. Olson added six points and had five assists.
Hassing had the Bucs other four points, and also led in rebounding with eight boards.
As a team, BEA was 1 of 4 from beyond the arc, and 17 of 33 inside it. The team was 6 of 11 from the free-throw line.
NRHEG was 2 of 4 at 3-pointers, 12 of 32 2-pointers, and 8 of 19 from the charity stripe.