Bucs make Section finals
The Blue Earth Area girls basketball team brought home another piece of hardware for the trophy case last Monday night with a 39-34 victory over the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Panthers in the Class 2AA South Sub-Section finals.
It is the third consecutive sub-section crown for the Buccaneer girls, who were to take on St. Peter last Friday for the chance to go to the state tournament. (Results of that game will appear in next week’s Faribault County Register, as well as the Register’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages.)
It was the second consecutive victory for the Bucs over a high powered offense.
After downing Southland, the Bucs now had to face the Panthers, a team that entered Monday night’s game with a 23-3 record — having won 17 of their last 18 games.
The Panthers average more than 67 points per game and their lowest point total of the year had been 50 points.
“We knew we needed to shut off their transition game, limit their offensive rebounds and be patient on offense,” comments Blue Earth Area mentor Al Cue.
When the two teams met earlier this year, the Panthers had pulled down 21 offensive rebounds on their way to a 66-62 victory. This time around, the Bucs outrebounded the Panthers 32-28 and did a good job of keeping them off the offensive boards. It was the first time the Panthers had lost the battle of the boards all year.
The Panthers took an early 5-0 lead with their only senior, forward Kristina Cole, hitting a trey for the opening points.
Blue Earth Area would score its first nine points courtesy of shots from behind the arc. Camille Driscoll tallied the Bucs’ initial three points. Ashley Olson then made her only 3-pointer of the night before Driscoll’s second trey knotted the game at 9-9.
Following a Buccaneer time-out at the 9:34 mark, Sydney Ristau gave the maroon and gold their first lead of the evening. Ristau muscled one in from the paint and Driscoll added two free throws – resulting in a 13-9 Buccaneer lead with 8:44 to go in the half.
The Panthers would hit three consecutive treys to score nine of the next 10 points, taking an 18-14 lead with just less than two minutes remaining in the opening stanza.
Driscoll’s basket would pull the Bucs to within two points of the Panthers, but a 3-pointer by the Panthers’ Anna Schlaak, her second of the game, gave NRHEG a 21-16 lead with just a minute left in the half.
Olson scored on a drive to the basket and was fouled with four seconds left before half time. She made the free throw to make it 21-19 in favor of the Panthers at the half.
Holding the Panthers to 21 first-half points was one thing, but it is doubtful that anyone thought the No. 1 seed Panthers would score only 13 points in the second half.
Ristau opened the second half with a short jumper to tie the game at 21-21. The game was then tied at 23 and 25 before Krista Hassing would give the Bucs the lead for good.
Hassing was fouled going up for a shot after grabbing an offensive rebound. She made only one of the two free throws putting the Bucs up 26-25.
Jenny Smith grabbed an offensive board and found Sara Warmka open for a short jumper to give the Bucs a three point cushion. Olson’s free throw made it 29-25 in favor of the Bucs with 8:33 left in the game.
A basket by the Panthers pulled them to within two points.
Hassing’s two free throws got the margin back to four. Hassing converted another offensive rebound into a basket and a 33-27 Bucs’ lead with 4:18 showing on the clock.
Following a free throw by BEA’s Rylee Wagner, the Panthers would cut the gap to four points with a trey by freshman Carlie Wagner with just less than four minutes to go in the game.
A steal and basket by the Panthers’ Wagner would cut the Bucs’ lead to 34-32 with 1:09 on the clock.
The Panthers were forced to foul to try and get the ball back. The Bucs made enough of their free throws – and continued their solid defense play – to come away with the victory.
Driscoll led the Bucs in scoring with 10 points, followed by Olson with nine, Ristau with seven, Hassing with six and Wagner with five.
Olson led the team with eight rebounds. Wagner and Driscoll each pulled down five boards.
Jenny Smith was credited with four steals for the Bucs, who forced a total of 18 Panther turnovers.