Weathering the storm
Forward duo Collin Bell and Jacob Vaske combined for more than 20 points, eighth-grade phenom Austin Thielfoldt connected on six of 10 shots and the Blue Earth Area boys limited state-ranked Jackson County Central late in Tuesday’s away game, but the Huskies managed to keep their lofty record intact, downing the Buccaneers, 80-49.
Trailing 46-22 at halftime, the maroon and gold got big contributions from Bell (12 points, two three-pointers) and Vaske (12 points, four rebounds). Junior guard Blake Barnett was also busy on the defensive side of the ball, logging six boards to go along with a team-high seven assists, while Thielfoldt finished with nine points.
JCC, however, proved too resilient for the Bucs, earning its second win over BEA this season.
The Huskies’ scoring run was slightly cut down in the second half, when the Bucs surrendered 43, but with just 18 of their own points after halftime, the BEA boys were left with their second consecutive defeat since a Jan. 3 victory over St. Peter.
Senior guard Chris Sanders and junior reserve Bobby Lindsey also got on the board for the Bucs in Tuesday night’s loss, accounting for a combined six points.
The Bucs were next scheduled to take on New Ulm Friday, Jan. 13, in their second straight road contest. After that matchup, BEA is slated to return home on Jan. 20 for a 7:30 p.m. rematch with the Fairmont Cardinals, who topped the Bucs in a doubleheader earlier this year.
St. James 60, BEA 49
A second-half push against the visiting St. James Saints came too late for the Blue Earth Area Buccaneer boys, who notched their second win in three games Jan. 3 but were topped, 60-49, at home on Friday, three days later.
Falling behind early thanks to a 10-4 run by the Saints, set up by quick passing and consecutive rebounds, BEA pulled itself together after halftime, outscoring St.
James in the final 18 minutes of action. But the late flurry of success was not enough to give the maroon and gold their fourth victory of the season.
“We defended a heck of a lot better in the second half,” said BEA coach Colby Swanson. “But they’re a good defensive team. They made it difficult for Jacob Vaske to get to the rim.”
Vaske, BEA’s starting junior forward who has logged a handful of double-doubles on the year, was just part of a Bucs offense that struggled to get things going early in Friday night’s contest.
A three-pointer by senior guard Logan Jahnke narrowed St. James’ lead to three just a few minutes into the matchup, but back-to-back steals by the Saints quickly propelled the visitors to a 10-point advantage.
The gap extended to 13 points before Caelan Sanders, a freshman regular for the Bucs, drained a shot beyond the arc. Subsequent baskets by junior guard Blake Barnett and senior Chris Sanders, Caelean’s older brother, pulled BEA even closer, with Barnett then scoring on a layup after recovering his own blocked shot to get the Bucs within single digits of the Saints.
Still trailing 33-21 at the break, the Bucs had perhaps their biggest comeback effort materialize with about eight minutes left in the Friday night showdown.
Staying active on the scoreboard early in the second half thanks to back-to-back threes from Barnett and senior Collin Bell, the maroon and gold put themselves in striking position by coming within eight points. Layups by Bell and Caelan Sanders helped offset a couple of Saint James Area rebounds, too.
With time continuing to tick, however, the Bucs increasingly found themselves in a hole, adding another two with a pair of late Vaske free throws but struggling to keep the Saints off the board.
Down 10 after Vaske’s shots, BEA’s defeat was all but wrapped up when St. James landed a subsequent shot and got an accompanying foul call. A three by Bell not long afterward kept the BEA High School crowd upright, as did a pair of Chris Sanders foul shots to narrow the deficit to nine.
But by that point, the clock had run all the way to under a minute remaining, and St. James forced an out-of-bounds call on the Bucs with 29 seconds left to seal its win.