Despite a stellar comeback, Belle Plaine’s slow start seemed to make all the difference in their 56-53 losing effort to the Fairmont Cardinals on Tuesday, Dec. 3, in Belle Plaine.
Both teams, in fact, struggled to get momentum early on, and after a couple of minutes of play, the score remained tied at zero.
Following a block from Belle Plaine’s 6-foot-7 center Mychal Fisel, Fairmont quickly recovered and put away a basket to drop the dry spell.
Fairmont points came slowly but surely as they crept to a 5-0 lead over the Tigers.
Belle Plaine’s Dylan Kahle finally broke through for the Tigers for a clean layup, drawing a foul in the process. A clean shot from the line brought the score to 5-3 with Belle Plaine trailing.
For the better part of the opening movement of the game, neither team imposed their will on the other, but Fairmont seemed to close slightly better under the basket. Standing at 6-foot-7, Fairmont’s Wyatt Frank gave Belle Plaine trouble, offensively and defensively in the lane, forcing Belle Plaine to take three-pointers that didn’t connect early on.
Fairmont crept to a 15-8 lead before Belle Plaine sophomore Jack Kruger picked off a Fairmont pass, setting up a Belle Plaine bucket.
The Cardinals fired back and held onto a 17-10 lead and began heating up from past the arc.
Back-to-back threes gave Fairmont a 25-10 lead before Belle Plaine’s Karim Tolbert fired a three of his own.
The remainder of the half saw Belle Plaine attempting to play catch-up with a surging Fairmont team.
Belle Plaine closed the half out with a block from Fisel that set up a Tolbert breakaway and layup, leaving things at 33-17.
In the second half, Belle Plaine’s full-court press paid dividends as the Tigers outscored the Cardinals 36-23.
Belle Plaine began making a red-hot comeback when they went on a 15-0 tear, holding Fairmont at 40 points for a meaningful period of time. Yet another defensive play made by Kruger set up a Fisel shot which rolled off the rim. Securing his own rebound, Fisel then finished the play, putting the Tigers within three points of Fairmont at 40-37 with six minutes to play.
A clean bucket from Belle Plaine’s Josh Gregory brought the Tigers to within one point.
Tiger Noah Schumacher, who got into foul trouble early in the contest, finally tied things up at 45 with a big basket with 2:30 on the clock.
Tolbert in turn secured a block and sunk a basket of his own to give the Tigers the lead for the first time in the contest at 50-48.
Fairmont’s Frank did not go down without a fight a tied things up at 50 with a booming slam dunk. Fairmont followed that with a crisp three, putting them up 53-50 with about a minute to go.
A steal from Belle Plaine senior Drew Hastings looked like it might give the Tigers another shot at the win, but a wily Fairmont lineup refused to miss from the line.
Gregory sunk a late three to put the Tigers to within one point at 54-53, but the Cardinals just needed to stay patient and coasted to a 56-53 win over Belle Plaine.
Tolbert led the Tigers in scoring with 13.