Following a come-from-behind victory against Windom on Saturday night, the Saints provided another exciting finish against the Fairmont Cardinals, in the sectional quarterfinals.
The Saints and Cardinals traded leads seven separate times early in the first half. St. James played with high defensive intensity, limiting Wyatt Frank’s touches and efficiency early.
Frank had scored 16 and 15 points in the two previous games against the Saints. This time around, St. James brought in two alumni in practice to simulate guarding Frank.
“We said if we can box these guys out we should be able to box out on Thursday because we knew that was going to be a key,” said coach Spencer Monson. “The boys did a great job. That’s the best defense we played all year.”
With the defensive adjustments and preparation, the Saints held Frank to just five points, while getting the junior center in foul trouble.
“We just had to keep a body on him and know where he was at all times. We wanted to try and stay in front of him, because when he gets you pinned on his back he’s very tough inside.”
Trailing by one with six minutes left to go in the first half, Parker Jones pushed St. James back in front with an and-one layup. Jones would add another basket, which was followed by a Derrick Halvorson three-pointer to extend the lead to seven.
A bucket from Dustin Schultz cut the lead to five, but Jones capped off the first half with a layup, and the Saints took a 25-18 lead into the locker room.
St. James started the second half on fire, with Halvorson, Lee Hillesheim, and Kobe Mohwinkel all connecting on three-pointers, extending the halftime lead up to 12 at 37-25.
“We’ve been waiting for this offensive explosion.,” said Monson. “We knew we were due for some shots to start falling. If we can shoot, it’s going to be tough on other teams.”
The Cardinals countered with a 9-0 run. The Saints answered with a rapid 9-0 run of their own,with threes from Mohwinkel, Hillesheim and Jones, and the lead grew back to 12 with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
Once again, Fairmont chipped away, highlighted by a three from Jack Hested and Nicholas Eversman. An offensive rebound and putback by Dustin Schultz trimmed the lead to six with just over two minutes remaining. Halvorson connected on a pair of free throws to push the lead to eight. Zach Jorgensen answered with a three. Peyton Hanson hit a trio of free throws, but another quick three by the Cardinals cut the lead right back down to five. Kobe Mohwinkel salted the game away with a free throw, and the Saints survived the comeback attempt, coming away with a 58-52.
Parker Jones led all scorers with 18 points. Lee Hillesheim finished with 11. Derrick Halvorson and Kob Mohwinkel each scored ten. Peyton Hanson scored nine points.
Jack Hested scored 12 points, all coming via the three. Nick Eversman and Zach Jorgensen each scored 11 in the loss.