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PREP BOYS' BASKETBALL: Huskies start fast, hold off Cardinals

WINDOM -- After missing four consecutive free throws Thursday night, Jackson County Central connected on six straight from the line and extended a 56-54 lead on the Fairmont Cardinals to a 62-57 cushion, as the Huskies advanced to the Section 3AA...

JCC's Ty Schwarting
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Huskie Ty Schwarting (22) drives inside for a shot between Cardinal defenders during Thursday night playoff action in Windom.

WINDOM -- After missing four consecutive free throws Thursday night, Jackson County Central connected on six straight from the line and extended a 56-54 lead on the Fairmont Cardinals to a 62-57 cushion, as the Huskies advanced to the Section 3AA South championship game with a scrappy 63-57 victory.

Utilizing an aggressive, trapping 2-3 zone defense, JCC charged out of the gates with a dominant performance in the opening five minutes, earning a 13-0 lead.

Following a three-point play by Bryce Christopher, the Huskies owned a 16-2 advantage with 12:34 to play in the first half.

The second-seeded Cardinals rallied behind four 3-pointers -- from four different players -- to trim the lead to 21-20, as Fairmont's Chris Heide capped an 18-5 burst with a trey (assist Max Waletich) at the 3:37 mark.

A pair of free throws by Logan Hall and a 3-pointer from Nolan Luhmann (assist Christopher) put the Huskies up by six, 26-20, less than a minute later.

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"That's how it went for us most of the game," declared JCC head coach Trent Sukalski. "It seemed like every time Fairmont made a run, we had guys step up and hit big shots for us."

JCC took a 27-23 lead into the intermission, netting 16 of its points in the first five minutes and 26 seconds -- and then scoring just 11 over the next 12:34.

"We got out of the gates in a hurry," Sukalski said of JCC's opening burst. "We put a lot of pressure on the ball with our trapping tactics, got in the passing lanes and were able to push the ball and run the floor."

JCC senior guard Ty Schwarting, a talented six-foot-three all-around basketball player, scored 13 of the Huskies' first-half points, including eight of the first 13.

"He's awesome, just awesome," praised Sukalski about Schwarting. "Ty is such a great player and makes so much happen for us."

Schwarting finished the game with 25 points, while also contributing four assists, a pair of steals and five rebounds.

Copley, Christopher combine for 14 JCC points in first 13:00 of tight second half

Schwarting scored on a jumper 57 seconds into the second half, giving the Huskies a 29-23 edge, but the Cardinals countered with six straight points -- starting with a tip-in by Kevin Hanson (eight points, team-high seven rebounds) -- to knot the score at 29-all with 15:04 left in the game.

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Luhmann scored on an inbounds pass from Schwarting 29 seconds later, and at the 13:54 mark the Huskies took a five-point lead (34-29) when Christopher (14 points) connected on a 3-pointer from just to the right of the top of the key.

A penetrating jumper by Schwarting capped a 7-0 JCC run and with 13:19 on the clock, the Huskies were leading 36-29.

Fairmont's Max Forster made a nice pass to Waletich (game-high five assists) for a basket in the lane, which sliced the gap to five.

But JCC sophomore forward Zach Copley drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner, lifting the Huskies to a 39-31 advantage with 12:40 to play.

"Zach can hit them," Sukalski said of Copley's long-range shot. "He made several big baskets for us in the second half, each of them coming after a Fairmont score."

Forster followed with a trey for the Cardinals and a free throw by Levi Becker brought Fairmont to within four, 39-35, with 11:06 left.

Thirty-two seconds later, freshman Mitch Pfingsten took a pass from Logan Peymann and buried the first of his four second-half 3-pointers, bringing the Cardinals to within a point, 39-38.

Copley's jumper put JCC back up by three, 41-38.

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Peymann made two-of-three free throws, making the score 41-40 with 9:57 on the clock.

Fifteen seconds later, Christopher scored inside, increasing the lead to three.

Becker answered with a drive for the Cardinals, trimming the gap to one again.

Then at the 7:40 mark, Fairmont took its first lead of the game as Heide (four offensive rebounds, nine points) crashed the boards, claimed the rebound and was fouled. His two free throws gave the Cardinals a 44-43 edge.

Nineteen seconds later, Copley caught a pass in the lane from Schwarting and converted again, giving the lead back to the Huskies.

A long 3-pointer by Pfingsten put the Cardinals up, 47-45, with 6:38 to play.

Following a steal and a later offensive rebound by freshman forward Jon Harmening, Christopher was fouled on a drive and sank two free throws, knotting the score at 47-47 with 5:16 on the clock.

Schwarting gave JCC a 49-47 edge 46 seconds later with a hard-driving layup off a jump-stop finish.

Pfingsten quickly knocked down his third trey of the second half (fourth of the game) and the Cardinals reclaimed the lead, 50-49.

Schwarting immediately answered with a long 3-pointer from the top, putting JCC up, 52-50, with 3:59 left.

"That was such a clutch play," praised Sukalski. "Ty wasn't phased a bit by the closeness of the contest. He just delivered like he has so many times."

Waletich, however, found a wide-open Hanson for a quick basket and the score was tied -- again -- at 52-52.

Schwarting sank a pair of free throws, giving JCC a 54-52 edge with 3:37 to play.

But over the next 69 seconds, the Huskies missed four straight free throws, and an offensive-rebound basket by the ever-hustling Heide tied the score once more (54-all) with 2:11 on the clock.

Luhmann, Christopher, Harmening sink clutch free throws for Huskies

For the fourth time of the second half, Copley came through with a big basket, as he increased his point total to 11 and put JCC ahead by two, 58-56, at the 1:58 mark when he scored off an assist from Schwarting.

After Christoffer claimed a key defensive rebound, Luhmann came up with a huge play when he set a screen for Schwarting near the half-court line and was knocked over.

With 1:27 left, Luhmann snapped JCC's dry spell at the line, sinking a pair and giving the Huskies a four-point edge, 58-54.

"Well-executed by Nolan," praised Sukalski. "Both the screen and the shots."

Pfingsten, however, answered with his fifth 3-pointer of the night and with 1:17 on the clock, it was again a one-point game, 58-57.

Twenty-seconds later, Christopher was fouled on a drive and was perfect on two free throws, increasing the lead back to three.

JCC then went man-to-man with Schwarting assigned to Pfingsten and with 39 seconds on the clock, Harmening came down with a big-time defensive rebound and was fouled.

Harmening sank both his free-throw attempts, boosting JCC's advantage to 62-57.

"Jon was really the unsung hero of the second half," praised JCC assistant coach Mark Kocak. "He battled hard on the inside and came up with several big rebounds and a steal, getting his hands on the ball a bunch of times. Then he hits those two free throws."

Fairmont was not able to score again and an over-the-top press-breaker pass from Christopher to Schwarting led to the game's final point (a free throw by Schwarting with two seconds left), as the Huskies prevailed.

"What a great game," concluded Sukalski. "It had everything you could ask for. We're just really happy with how we played and are looking forward to playing again Saturday."

The third-seeded Huskies (18-8) will challenge the defending Section 3AA champion Windom Eagles at 6 p.m. Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for the sub-section championship.

The top-seeded Eagles (22-5) defeated Murray County Central, 61-39, at Jackson Thursday night.

Fairmont, which defeated JCC (79-63) midway through the campaign, ends a fine season with a 14-12 record.

"Give JCC a lot of credit," summed up first-year FHS head coach Jared Thompson. "We had too many turnovers in the first half against their trapping zone defenses. We made some good adjustments and did a lot of good things, attacking from the high post, to make this a very good game. But JCC's length and overall athleticism make that zone defense of their's very effective."

Fairmont, which had 13 turnovers in the first half, finished with 20 for the game, surrendering the ball just seven times after intermission.

Pfingsten paced seven Cardinal scorers with 16 points, netting 12 of them in the second-half.

JCC 27 36 -- 63

Fairmont 23 34 -- 57

JCC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hall 0-0-2-2, Schwarting 2-8-3-25, Christopher 1-3-5-14, Luhmann 1-1-3-8, Copley 1-4-0-11, Harmening 0-0-3. Totals 5-16-16-63.

Fairmont (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Waletich 0-3-0-6, Heide 1-2-2-9, Peymann 1-1-2-7, Hanson 0-4-0-8, Forster 1-1-0-5, Becker 1-1-1-6, Pfingsten 5-0-1-16. Totals 9-12-6-57.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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