Taking it down to the wire
If keeping things close is the goal of the Blue Earth Area girls when they take the basketball court, they now have back-to-back showings to prove they can do just that.
Winning, of course, is priority No. 1 for coach Al Cue and the young Buccaneers, but on Tuesday night, four days after falling by one point to the rival Cardinals in Fairmont, BEA was barely edged once again, dropping a 62-57 overtime clash with Granada Huntley East Chain-Truman-Martin Luther despite a 36-point second half.
“We had some stretches where we were quite good,” Cue said. “Unfortunately, we had a couple stretches where we really struggled to score (and) we also had a couple of crucial turnovers late in regulation that really hurt.”
It was a sloppy affair to start the evening at BEA High School, as both sides struggled shooting. The Bucs connected on just seven of 29 shots, while the visiting Mustangs missed all but six of their 27 attempts.
But a second-half turnaround had the maroon and gold eyeing their first victory since Dec. 5, drawing 18 free throws and sinking 15 of them a stark improvement from the team’s foul-shot troubles in Fairmont the week before.
Senior guard Samantha Barslou went on a tear to spark the Bucs offense, logging 18 of the team’s final 39 points and 15 in the second half alone. Additional second-half scores from all over the lineup and off the bench courtesy of seven other girls, including Lindsey and Alissa Norman (8 combined), Samantha Ripley (4) and Caitlin Rorman (3) sent the contest into overtime, erasing a 22-18 Mustangs lead at the break.
But the Bucs’ opponent, outrebounded by BEA throughout the evening, did just enough in OT. Sinking four of seven free throws and hitting two other shots, the Mustangs were countered only by a trio of points by Barslou.
Dropped to 2-3 on the year after the overtime defeat, the Buc girls were next slated for a three-game roadtrip starting at Maple River High School on Friday, Dec. 16, when BEA was slated to square off with Section 5AAA’s Holy Family Catholic.
A 2:30 p.m. Saturday showdown with Sibley East in Maple River followed that, while the Bucs are scheduled to travel to Waseca for a matchup with the Bluejays on Dec. 20.
Fairmont 43, BEA 42
Talk about a close one.
Kicking off a basketball doubleheader at Fairmont High School Friday night, Dec. 9, the Blue Earth Area girls led the rival Cardinals by five near halftime and almost overcame a 10-point deficit in the final minutes.
Almost is the key word, though, as the Buccaneers’ comeback fell just short in a 43-42 defeat, the maroon and gold’s second consecutive road loss.
“We just had a big scoring drought,” said BEA coach Al Cue. “There was poor shooting, the free-throw numbers weren’t good and we rushed some shots.”
Actually, on the Bucs’ final possession, starting with about 15 seconds remaining after a Fairmont foul shot, the BEA girls were in no rush. But even with enough time to drive into the paint against the Cardinals, they could not find the bucket to pull off the victory.
Early on, things had a different feel, Cue said, as the Bucs were capitalizing more on their opportunities, playing with an energy that he said may have been lacking in the team’s 48-42 win over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial four days earlier.
A three-pointer by senior guard Samantha Barslou right out of the gate set the tone for a BEA offense that connected on a handful of additional treys, two of which came from sophomore standout Caitlin Rorman in the first half. And the Bucs owned leads of 10-5, 13-7 and 25-20 in front of the Fairmont crowd.
A couple of traveling calls enabled the Cards to stick around, but by halftime, BEA still had the upper hand. Moving under the direction of junior point guard Alissa Norman, whose from-the-knees pass to senior center Sam Ripley kept the maroon and gold ahead by five, the Bucs were not outdone until the second half really got underway.
Slowly but surely, missed shots and foul calls allowed the Cardinals to creep back into contention, and within 10 minutes after the break, the tables had completely turned. Back-to-back turnovers gave Fairmont a 37-27 lead one that proved too large to overcome down the stretch.
Another Rorman three helped BEA narrow the deficit, and a layup by junior forward Reegan Howard pulled the Bucs within six before senior Brittany Johnson came off the bench and drilled a three-pointer of her own.
Before long, Barslou was at the line for a pair of free throws and brought the girls within three points of tying the tightly contested game, but fouls continued to haunt the maroon and gold.
Late shots by Howard had BEA trailing Fairmont 43-40 and then 43-42 as the clock wound below 1:05, but the Bucs were unable to retake the lead, perhaps most undone by their own struggles at the free-throw line.
If BEA would have connected on just one or two of its second-half misses in that category, Cue acknowledged after the game, the outcome may have been drastically different.