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Bucs season ends in playoff defeat

By Staff | Mar 11, 2018

Carter Bell drives to the basket against a bigger New Richland defender in sub-sectional competition on Thursday, March 8. Bell finished the game with 11 points as the Bucs lost in a close battle, 49-47.

Last month, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva defeated BEA easily, 61-29. On Thursday, March 8, the Blue Earth Area boys basketball team had redemption on their mind during their quarterfinal sub-sectional showdown against New Richland.

Playing at Mankato East High School, the Bucs displayed an extra emphasis on toughness and hustle this time around. Buc guard Carter Bell, who finished with 11 points, found the range from downtown to begin the game and made things difficult for the top seeded Panthers.

According to BEA head coach Colby Swanson, Bell’s marksmanship was the catalyst to closing out the first half with a 25-24 advantage.

“We controlled the pace in the first half,” Swanson said. “I think we had very good floor spacing, we had longer possessions and took higher quality shots.”

Trailing 47-42 with under a minute to go, BEA’s Grant Strukel buried a contested three pointer from the wing to cut the deficit to two. Moments later, a New Richland turnover led to a Caelan Sanders bucket which tied the game.

With 2.5 seconds remaining, Sanders was called for a reach-in foul which led to a 1-in-1 free throw opportunity for the Panthers. New Richland converted on both foul shots and took a 49-47 lead over the Bucs.

BEA had one final chance to win the game following the two made free throws. Sanders threw a long in-bounds pass to freshman Cameron Anderson near half court. Anderson then tried a quick pass to fellow freshman Austin Thielfoldt, but the ball was intercepted as the Bucs could not locate a shot.

Despite the loss, coach Swanson said he was extremely proud of the effort and intensity his group played with throughout the game.

“We executed really well, and several players came up with big plays down the stretch. I think this will give us great momentum heading into next season,” Swanson added.

BEA 72, LCWM 50

On Tuesday, March 6, the Blue Earth Area boys basketball team began their playoff run at home in the Section 2, Class 2AA south regional bracket. Their opening round sub-sectional opponent happened to be the fifth-seeded Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Knights.

Coming into the game, Blue Earth Area was trying to shake off an eight-game losing skid. They did so in dominating fashion as they blew out Lake Crystal, 72-50.

The first half featured competitive, back-and-forth action throughout. Buccaneer senior Jacob Vaske was able to make an impact on both ends of the floor. Drawing fouls in the paint, and showcasing active hands in passing lanes helped the Bucs establish momentum.

However, the Bucs surrendered a three point basket to the Knights with 27.1 seconds remaining before halftime. As a result, the Buccaneers found themselves trailing 34-30 at intermission.

Afterwards, BEA head coach Colby Swanson admitted his team did not close out the period the way he would have liked.

“We were allowing the ball to get to the middle of the floor too easily, and after they got it to the middle and made some direct passes, Lake Crystal ended up scoring 34 points, which is way too many,” Swanson explained.

In the second half, the Buccaneers responded with a 15-4 run early in the period. A Vaske scoop shot in the lane gave BEA a 42-40 lead with 12:49 remaining in the contest. As it turned out, this would be a lead the Bucs would not relinquish.

Moments later after a Knights turnover, Blue Earth Area’s Austin Thielfoldt dished off to Cameron Anderson, who was ahead of the field in transition, as the Bucs scored another bucket.

With the score 44-40 in favor of the maroon and gold, and the Bucs in the midst of a big run, Lake Crystal decided to call a timeout.

After the stoppage of play, the Buccaneer barrage only continued. With 8:37 to go, Buc guard Carter Bell scored a basket following an offensive rebound to make the score 47-43. On the very next possession, Vaske added a bank shot in transition as he was fouled in the act of shooting.

Although the Buc senior could not convert on the three-point play, Anderson collected the offensive rebound and scored a bucket of his own, extending BEA’s lead to 51-43. From that point on, the Bucs were on cruise control as they were able to outscore the Knights 21-7.

With the game in hand, coach Swanson decided to take seniors Vaske and Jared Kennedy out of the ball game. In the final home game of their high school careers, the two seniors received cheers from the Blue Earth Area home crowd. Swanson spoke highly of the contributions Vaske and Kennedy were able to make to the Buc basketball program.

“They were two great leaders,” said the BEA basketball mentor. “Jared’s very vocal and did a great job working with our underclassmen. Jacob, on the other hand is very quiet, but when he says something, everyone listens.

“It’s been such an enjoyable season for me personally because I’ve watched them grow up and be good role models,” he added.

Vaske ended the contest with 16 points, nine rebounds, five steals, four assists and two blocked shots. Meanwhile, Anderson led all scorers with a season-high 25 points.