BEA wins OT thriller on road
The Blue Earth Area Buccaneers (3-7) found themselves involved in an overtime thriller on Friday, Jan. 5 in St. James. The end result was a 71-68 Bucs victory over a determined Saints team.
Hot St. James shooting, combined with late defensive rotations by the BEA defense, contributed to an early first half deficit for the Buccaneers. With 8:02 remaining in the first half, Blue Earth Area’s frustrated head coach Colby Swanson called a timeout as his team was trailing 29-16 in the contest.
From that point on, the Bucs went on a 19-6 run to close out the half and even up the score at 35 by the break. According to coach Swanson, BEA’s intensity level and focus allowed the Bucs to close the gap.
“By playing better defensively, I think that’s what gave us so much energy and confidence on the offensive end,” Swanson said. “At the end of the first half and into the second half, I thought we were the one getting to loose balls, and that’s what led to our comeback.”
With under 14 minutes remaining in regulation, the Bucs took their first lead of the second half. Austin Thielfoldt notched one of his team-high six assists on the evening when he dished to Caelan Sanders for a layup. This hoop made the score 43-41. Sanders led the way for BEA with 19 points in the contest.
However, the lead was short lived as St. James answered right back with a three point basket. With 12:02 remaining in the half, Sanders responded once again by making a couple of free throws and momentarily gave the Bucs a 45-44 lead.
Once St. James wrestled back the lead again, the Bucs would continue to trail until Grant Strukel, who accounted for 17 points in the game, caught fire from downtown. With under seven minutes to go in the period, Strukel’s pair of three pointers helped the Bucs gain a 58-57 advantage over the hard charging Saints.
From that point, the Saints went on a 7-1 run to regain control of the hotly contested game. Trailing by five with 1:40 remaining, Buc senior Jacob Vaske made his presence felt with a steal and a coast-to-coast layup to trim the deficit to three.
Another Vaske bucket with 45 seconds remaining in regulation made the score 64-63 in favor of St. James. Coach Swanson believes Vaske’s 14 point, seven rebound effort was vital in the Bucs win.
“I can’t say enough about how happy I am that Jacob finished the game strong after getting off to a slow start,” said Swanson. “He played very hard, getting rebounds, scoring, and getting to the free throw line. He and Cameron (Anderson) were the key to us finishing the game out.”
St. James maintained a 64-63 advantage when Anderson was hacked on his way to the basket with 11.4 remaining in the half. The freshman guard had an opportunity to give BEA the lead if he could sink both free throws.
As the St. James crowd reached a fever pitch, Anderson calmly made the first of two free throw attempts to tie up the game. Following a Bucs timeout, Anderson’s second free throw was off the mark and rebounded by St. James.
The Saints called a timeout of their own to set up an inbound play in their front court with 6.9 seconds left in the half. Eager to atone for his missed free throw moments earlier, Anderson was about to make one of the biggest defensive plays of the season.
The six footer leaped in the air and intercepted the inbound pass near half court. With no Saints defender in between Anderson and the basket, the rest of the Bucs cheered on their teammate as he took two dribbles and sprinted towards the hoop.
The stage was seemingly set for a break away layup and another Bucs victory at the buzzer. However, coach Swanson decided to put a stop to the action and called a timeout with 4.9 seconds remaining. After the game, Swanson admitted he regretted his decision to call timeout in that situation.
“In hindsight, I called two timeouts at the end of the second half that I wish I wouldn’t have called,” said the Buccaneer coach. “I called timeout when Cameron had caught it in the air because I was just excited to get the ball back. I probably took a game winning layup away from him.”
As it turned out, the Bucs would not be able to locate a quality shot after the timeout. Thielfoldt’s misfire from extended three point range meant the game would continue into overtime.
Anderson continued his stellar play in the extra session as he began the period with a quick three pointer following a Bucs offensive rebound. He also scored the next bucket for the Bucs on a mid-range pull up jumper. Anderson finished the evening with 13 points in all.
St. James answered back with four points of their own to make the score 69-68 in favor of Blue Earth Area. Then, with 38.7 seconds to go, Vaske was fouled in the act of shooting. He converted both free throw attempts to give BEA a 71-68 cushion.
On the game’s final possession, Saints junior Parker Jones, who scored a game-high 23 points, had possession of the ball.
With the game on the line, Thielfoldt was assigned the difficult task of stopping the explosive six-foot-three guard from St. James. Despite Thielfoldt’s lack of size compared to Jones, coach Swanson felt comfortable with the match-up.
“If there’s one possession, and we need a stop, I have complete faith that Austin is going to make a play and he did a great job contesting the shot,” Swanson explained.
Thielfoldt rewarded his coach’s decision as the scrappy freshman stood his ground against the much larger Jones. A last second three-point attempt by Jones was off target as the Bucs were able to preserve the road victory.
The next contest for the Blue Earth Area boys resulted in a 67-53 home loss to St. Peter on Jan. 9. Having won two out of their last three games, the Buc basketball mentor has seen improvement in several key areas which has helped turn the tide for the Buccaneers.
“Better defense, toughness getting to loose balls and rebounding, and better shot selection, it’s been those things that have helped turn things around,” Swanson said.
“I’m just glad that our kids battled back after being down several times in this game, it was really impressive,” he added.
The Buccaneers will hit the road to take on Le Sueur-Henderson on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Results of this game will appear in next week’s edition of the Faribault County Register.