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Prep boys basketball: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton takes bite out of Windom Area

WINDOM -- With the new high-tech scoreboard shimmering on the north end of the gymnasium Saturday afternoon, two quality high school boys' basketball teams utilized contrasting styles and produced an exciting and entertaining 36 minutes of action...

WINDOM - With the new high-tech scoreboard shimmering on the north end of the gymnasium Saturday afternoon, two quality high school boys’ basketball teams utilized contrasting styles and produced an exciting and entertaining 36 minutes of action.
When the final horn sounded, the visiting Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers - despite missing 14 free throws, including five in the last 3:32 - completed a strong second-half defensive effort with an 80-70 victory over a Windom Area squad which connected 15 times from behind the three-point line - 10 of those coming prior to intermission.
The long-range shooting Eagles scored their first 18 points from behind the arc and earned multiple 10-point leads (22-12, 28-18, 33-23 and 38-28) in the first half before T-M-B rallied with a closing 11-5 surge, capped by a Riley Kirk tip-in at the buzzer. That sliced the gap to 43-39 at halftime.
Windom’s Jeff Pfeffer, a 6-1 senior guard, hit five treys in a 20-point first-half performance, while 6-0 senior guard Austin Fast dropped in four shots from long-range. Once, Fast had a rare miss on a high archer from the left wing and the long rebound sailed out to Pfeffer, who connected on a long bomb from the right wing, giving the Eagles their 38-28 lead at the 5:19 mark.
“That was fun to watch,” said second-year Eagles’ head coach Chad Elston of his team’s phenomenal outside shooting. “Both Jeff and Austin have really put in a lot of extra time in the gym, working on their shooting.”
Moving the ball well and working off screens, the Eagles were 10-of-18 from behind the arc in those first 18 minutes, shooting 56 percent.
“Our defensive objective was to defend the three-point line,” said T-M-B head coach Rick Haberman. “We tried about everything we could, switching defenses several times. But, Windom’s shooters were on fire and we couldn’t stop them.”
T-M-B, meanwhile, was playing at a fast pace when it could and scored frequently in transition, back-door cuts and offensive rebounds. Leading the Panthers was high-leaping 6-2 senior guard Josh Kirk, who had 18 points at the break, scoring seven times on two-point field goals.
Eight lead changes as second half remains closely contested
Five quick points by Josh Kirk to open the second half were countered by 3-pointers from Pfeffer and Sam Huska as the Eagles went by up five, 49-44.
The Panthers, however, responded with a pair of free throws by Kirk and a transition three-point play by Spencer Smith (long assist pass from Riley Kirk) to tie the score at 49-all with 15:22 left.
A layup by Josh Kirk 46 seconds later gave T-M-B its first scoreboard edge since it held a 5-3 lead at the end of the game’s first minute.
A 3-pointer from the left corner by Adam Farag put the Eagles back up (52-51) and over the next nine minutes, the lead changed hands eight times and the score was tied three times (at 55, 64 and 66).
Windom 3-pointers by Fast and Matt Theesfeld, along with a strong drive by Pfeffer were among the highlights for the Eagles, while treys from Tanner Phelps and Josh Kirk, along with a layup and a couple of sharp passes from Derek Larsen helped fuel the Panthers.
The triple by Josh Kirk, who finished the game with 40 points (22 in the second half), changed the lead for the final time as the Panthers held a 69-68 edge with 5:02 on the clock.
Two free throws by Josh Kirk and a follow-up rebound shot by Smith stretched the lead to 73-68 and Smith’s two-handed dunk - off a long pass from Riley Kirk, following a steal - pushed the spread to seven, 75-68, with 2:09 on the clock.
Larson and Josh Kirk combined for five free throws in the closing two minutes, offsetting a pair from the line by Pfeffer, who finished with a career-high 31 points after scoring 26 the night before against Pipestone Area.
Five Eagles hit 3-pointers as Windom finished 15-of-32 for 47 percent from behind the line, while hitting 45 percent (9-of-20) on 2-point field goals. Combined, the Eagles were 24-of-52 from the field (46 percent) and an excellent 7-for-8 at the free throw stripe for 88 percent.
T-M-B was 16-of-30 at the line (53 percent), while shooting 46 percent on 2-pointers (26-of-56) and 22 percent on three’s (4-of-18) for a total of 41 percent from the field (30-of-74).
Riley Kirk (three steals, four rebounds) and Larson (five blocks) each finished with five assists for the Panthers, while Josh Kirk came up with a game-high six steals.
The nonconference Section 3AA victory improved T-M-B’s overall record to 16-3, while the Eagles, who host Jackson County Central Tuesday, fall to 12-6.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Elston said. “We played a close game the night before at Pipestone and made a long trip home after a tough loss. For us to come out and play so hard and compete so well on Saturday was a great thing to see.”
Haberman’s Panthers played a pair of overtime games last week, including a Friday night Camden Conference victory (82-74) over Dawson-Boyd and will host Lakeview in a key Camden South clash Thursday.
“We’re really pleased to have capped a busy week with a nice performance and a win over a very good Windom team,” Haberman said. “I was happy with how hard we worked all game long.”
T-M-B 39 80
Windom 43 70
T-M-B (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Phelps 2-0-0-6, R. Kirk 0-1-0-2, J. Kirk 2-12-10-40, Smith 0-8-2-18, Sanders 0-2-0-4, Larson 0-3-4-10. Totals 4-26-16-80.
WINDOM (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Theesfeld 1-0-0-3, Fast 5-0-0-15, Pfeffer 6-4-5-31, Farag 1-0-0-3, Gilbertson 0-1-0-2, Huska 2-2-0-10, Ogeka 0-2-2-6. Totals 15-9-7-70.

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