WINDOM --- Combining a determined team defensive effort with a sparkling 18-point second-half offensive performance by senior all-around athlete Wyatt Minion, the Windom Area Eagles changed a 41-34 halftime deficit into a 73-61 victory Saturday evening in Section 3AA South quarterfinal tournament action.
Minion, a stellar football player who also ran sprints for the Eagles in track last spring, scored 18 of his game-high 22 points after intermission, starting with a left-side three-pointer that seemed to jump start Windom’s second-half surge.
Later, it was a Minion assist to junior sharpshooter Kobe Lovell for a three-pointer from the right corner that gave the Eagles a 50-49 lead with 8:02 remaining. Windom never trailed again and earned advancement to the tournament’s semifinals and will play top-seeded Fairmont (19-6) at Jackson Thursday, March 8 with a 7 p.m. tipoff.
With Minion providing most of the offensive spark and the entire team playing intense man-to-man defense, the Eagles --- who split two Big South Conference clashes with Luverne this winter --- dominated the second half Saturday, outscoring the Cardinals 39-20 after the break.
In the other three Section 3AA South games Saturday, Fairmont defeated eighth-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (55-39) in Fairmont, second-seeded Pipestone Area topped seventh-seed St. James Area (69-45) at Pipestone, and third-seeded Jackson County Central held off sixth-seeded Martin County West (77-64) in Jackson.
JCC (15-11) and PA (17-10) will tangle for a third time Thursday in a semifinal matchup at Windom (7 p.m.). The Arrows defeated the Huskies twice this season, winning 72-67 at Pipestone (Jan. 6) and 78-55 at Jackson on Jan. 30.
Thursday’s winners will play for the Section 3AA South (sub-section) championship at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall Saturday (March 10) at 6 p.m.
Luverne, which defeated Windom (66-59) in mid-February (the 13th) at Windom and had played the Eagles to a high-scoring double-overtime loss (101-95) at Luverne back on Jan. 5, looked to in control most of the first half in the third meeting between the long-time rivals.
Moving the ball well and hitting five three-point shots in the first half, the Cardinals stormed to leads of 23-17, 32-21 and 37-25 before the Eagles sliced the gap to 41-34 by intermission, as Windom senior point guard Luke Gilbertson scored off a drive in the closing seconds.
Out of the break, Minion drilled his early three-pointer and then neither team scored until Luverne’s Brayden Jacobsma converted off a drive at the 14:38 mark.
The Eagles were playing inspired on the defensive end and came up with numerous stops. A basket by Lovell and three straight by Minion --- once on an offensive rebound off of his own miss --- brought Windom to within four (49-45) with 9:24 remaining.
Kaden Elder scored for the Eagles with an inside move, making it a two-point game. Following another Windom defensive stop, Minion penetrated the middle and tossed a pass out to Lovell who sank the shot from the corner and the Eagles had their first lead since early in the game.
A drive by Windom’s Chase Maricle extended the edge to 52-49, and after Luverne’s Eli Haugom scored inside for the Cardinals, Minion connected again from three-point range and it was 55-51 Eagles.
Maricle converted on another drive and a free throw by Lovell extended Windom’s advantage to 58-51. Luverne countered with a three-pointer Mark Robinson, but Minion scored again on a drive with 4:24 remaining, the Eagles were leading by six at 60-54.
The Cardinals were not finished as Derek Lundgren drilled a three-pointer --- which was quickly matched by Gilbertson and with 3:40 left, it was still a six-point Windom lead (63-57).
A baseline jumper by Eagle junior Eric Pfeffer made the score 65-57 and a free throw by Gilbertson at the 2:46 mark, extended the lead to nine.
Twenty seconds later, Lundgren (team-high 15 points) connected again on a three-pointer for the Cardinals. Windom countered with a free throw from Maricle, Minion’s third three-pointer of the second half, a free throw by Minion and a pair from the line by Lovell to offset a single free throw by Haugom during the game’s last two minutes.
Minion (22), Gilbertson (13), Maricle (10) and Lovell (10) each scored in double figures for the Eagles, who improved to 14-12. Windom had only three turnovers in the entire second half, finishing with just 12 for the game. The Eagles out-rebounded the Cardinals 40-31, including a 24-19 edge after intermission.
The Eagles were 29-of-59 from the field (49.2 percent), highlighted by a five-of-12 shooting from behind the arc in the second half.
Luverne was limited to eight-of-28 from the field (28.6 percent) in the second half after shooting a red-hot 58.6 percent (17-of-29) in the first half ---- 12-of-17 on two-point field goals and five-of-12 on three’s.
Lundgren (15), Haugom (13), Robinson (10) and Riley Siebenahler (eight) paced a well-balanced attack for the Cardinals, who had eight players score. Haugon (10), Lundgren (nine) and Siebenahler (eight) combined for 27 of Luverne’s first-half points.
The Cardinals, who won seven of eight games in February, were coming on strong and finished with an overall record of 9-17, playing competitively throughout the winter. Included in Luverne's late-season surge was a 58-55 victory over Minneota, currently ranked fifth in the state among all Class A teams with a sparkling record of 21-2.
JACKSON -- Rudy Voss scored 23 points to lead third-seeded Jackson County Central to a win over sixth-seeded Martin County West.
Noah Carr added 16 points for the Huskies, while Bradley Buhl scored 10 and Dylan Svoboda added nine for JCC, which led 39-34 at halftime.
MCW was led by Cole Owens and Wyatt Geistfeld, who each scored 17 points.
JCC will play second-seeded Pipestone Area at 7 p.m. Thursday in Windom.