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Section 3AA boys basketball: St. James tops JCC

WINDOM — After winning six of its last seven boys basketball games, Jackson County Central set a tone that even it couldn’t keep up with in Section 3AA tournament play at a nearly full gym at Windom Area High School. 

But St. James Area’s defensive focus in the lane may have had something to do with that.

Both teams shot lights out from beyond the arc through the first half, but it was the Saints who made a decisive move just before halftime that carried them on to pick up their 76-57 win over the Huskies and forge on in the postseason. The game was the second in a doubleheader Tuesday night.

“They play a good 1-2-2 zone and we were 13 for 36 at halftime from the field,” St. James head coach Steve Walker said after the ballgame. “I told the kids that we have better shooters than that. It makes it simpler when the ball’s going in the hole.”

JCC, seeded third in the south sub-section of 3AA, led throughout the first half. Both teams did an outstanding job of denying the other anything from close range and as a result, the clubs combined for eight first-half treys. Huskies senior Darnell Taylor-Breck had two of them for his side’s effort.

“That was a risky game we began to play by just shooting threes, but at the same time, that was all they were giving us,” JCC head coach Trent Sukalski said. “Darnell had an outstanding game and he kept us in the game for a long time.”

Trailing by three points at the break, 32-29, after a pair of threes hit by St. James in the first half’s final 67 seconds, the Huskies were unable to recover. St. James senior Walker Froehling connected on three of his night’s four three-pointers after the break.

The Huskies gave up 14 offensive boards in the first half and never found the balance it needed after halftime to help toward a win. St. James outscored JCC 44-28 in the second half.

“We’ve been as good as anybody over about the last six weeks. One of the reasons for that is that we’ve had a good inside and outside game,” Sukalski said. “In the second half we got away from that. I didn’t think it was because we didn’t try, but it was because of how they defended really well.

“At the 10 or 11-minute mark I still wanted us to hammer it inside. I felt that if we didn’t, the game would get away from us, and it did.”

Taylor-Breck led JCC with 20 points while senior center Jon Harmening and junior guard Zach Schwarting each tacked on a dozen. The Huskies finish the season at 17-10 but take another step in what they feel is a building process for their program.

“Seventeen wins is the second-most in the school’s history. I was telling our kids in the locker room that we have a lot to be proud of,” Sukalski said. “We beat some state-ranked teams along the way. I didn’t think it was possible for us to get blown out, but we kind of did. It was a really good year and I’m really proud of the kids.”

St. James, seeded second in the tournament, now faces No. 1 seed Fairmont for the third time this year. This time it is in a sub-section final scheduled for Saturday night at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Fairmont won the first two meetings by a combined seven points. The Cardinals defeated Blue Earth Area in Windom, 51-47, to qualify for Saturday’s game.

“We’ve had a lot of battles with them,” Walker said of Fairmont. “They’re a tough team but we’re excited to be there. I know we’ll go and give our best on Saturday.”

JCC 29 57

STJ 32 76

JCC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Taylor-Breck 4-3-2-20, Harmening 0-5-5-12, Schwarting 2-2-2-12, Place 1-1-0-5, Timmer 1-0-0-3, Behrends 1-0-0-3, Brinkman 0-1-0-2. Totals 9-12-6-57.

ST. JAMES (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Brandts 0-8-8-24, Froehling 4-3-4-22, Sandmeyer 0-5-0-12, Olsen 2-1-2-10, Menssen 1-0-0-3, Witcraft 1-0-0-3, Ronge 0-1-0-2. Totals 8-19-14-76.

TMB 74, Minneota 71 MONTEVIDEO— The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers held off the Minneota Vikings’ final offensive push en route to a 74-71 victory in Montevideo.

Leading T-M-B was Spencer Smith. He accounted for nearly half of the team’s points, with 35. Behind Smith was Josh Kirk, who tacked on another 20 points.

Minneota had a trio of high scorers, with Daniel Harrison scoring 23 and both Dylan Tolk and Austin Buysse scoring 17.

T-M-B goes on to play Redwood Valley on Saturday at 8 p.m. at SMSU in Marshall.

RV defeated Pipestone Area, 86-67, Tuesday in Montevideo.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson is the Daily Globe sports writer. He hails from southwest Iowa and served as sports editor at the Audubon County Advocate Journal there for 2 ½ years before moving to Worthington in October 2013. Caleb trys to enjoy life and everybody that he meets. He enjoys music, playing guitar and drums, and is an avid sports fan. 
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