Boys drop two against Waseca and Fairmont

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

Last Friday, the St. James boys basketball team hit the road to travel to #1 Waseca, where the Bluejays handled the Saints, 90-51, behind a game-high 22 points by Minnesota State-bound Kyreese Willingham.

Willingham scored 19 points in the first half, as the Bluejays jumped all over the Saints, taking a 61-18 lead into the break. 

North Dakota State commit Andrew Morgan scored all nine of his points in the opening half.

Zach Huehn and Ryan Dufault scored 14 and 15, respectively. Elijah Beck finished with 12.

Hayden Jones led the Saints with 19, while Steven Balbuena.

On Monday night back inside the confines of the St. James Event Center, it took a full team effort from Fairmont to overcome a career-high 35-point outburst by Hayden Jones, as the Cardinals fended off an energized Saints team 68-59.

Jones was off and running early, scoring 16 of the Saints' 23 points in the first half, once again attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line.

Jones scored the first three points for the Saints from the free-throw line. Alex Stresemann connected on a three and the Saints were up 6-5 early in the half.

Stresemann, who earned his first varsity start on Friday in Waseca due to Adrian Luna's absence, got the nod again in the starting lineup on Monday. 

"Alex has done a nice job since he's stepped in and he filled the role well," said head coach Spencer Monson.

As the teams traded leads into the middle part of the half, a quick 7-0 run by Fairmont, sparked by a three from Jacob Crissinger and a pair of buckets by Zach Jorgensen, had Fairmont up 23-18. A pair of free throws and a three from Jorgensen put Fairmont ahead by 11 late in the half, and the Cards took a 32-23 advantage into halftime.

 Needing a spark out of the break, Monson put the ball in the hands of his sophomore guard Stresemann to try and free up cutting and driving lanes for his club.

The move paid off, as Jones quickly found an open driving lane for a layup, and Michael Suarez connected on a pair of corner threes to cut the lead down to one just two and a half minutes into the frame, forcing the Cards to call a timeout and reset. 

"We were trying to find openings in that zone," said Monson. "We struggled in the first half so we drew something up that worked pretty well and we got some good looks out of it. Alex is getting better every game. His playmaking is getting better and when someone else is making plays, that opens it up for Hayden too, which in turn opens things up for Mike so we're moving the ball pretty well now."

St. James matched Fairmont basket for basket, as Hayden Jones found more driving lanes, and Connor Jones knocked down a three to keep the Fairmont lead at one.

Crissinger struck for back-to-back threes to push the Fairmont lead to 50-43 with just over 7:00 remaining.

The short burst from Fairmont in the middle of the frame was enough to keep the Saints—who couldn't cut the lead any closer than five in the late stages of the half—at bay.

Jorgensen lead Fairmont with 19 points. Crissinger finished with 14 on the strength of four three-pointers and a pair of free throws to seal the game late in the second half. Tanner Rosch finished with 15.

Jones' 35-point night was the third time the junior has scored over 30 in the Saints' past five games.

"When he was a freshman, he was kind of just an inside player," said Monson. "Where now he's really expanded his game to the outside. This year he took on the role of our primary ball-handler so he's making plays. He's our leading scorer but he also leads us in assists so he's all-around been improving his game."

The pair of losses drops St. James to 2-10 on the year.

The Saints are back in action on Friday against Jackson County Central.