NEW ULM - Mason Clark picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes to go in the second half and his team up six. With five minutes remaining, the Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart senior leader returned just in time to lead Mustangs to a 68-63 victory over Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
BLHS took command of the game early on, leading by a score 15-6 early and putting MVL in an early hole.
The Chargers answered the call as Ryan Grunke and Chad Lease each scored nine first-half points to cut the deficit to 34-29 at halftime.
MVL senior Justin Bruns opened the second half with eight quick points to give MVL a lead and force a BLHS timeout.
"We played very resilient," MVL coach Craig Morgan said. "We had a couple guys come off the bench and play well for us too."
Morgan credited Grant Wilson's defensive intensity, and the rebounding of both Nick Dewanz and Richard Jensen to spark the MVL charge.
BLHS then made a run of its own as Kyle Kubesh and Clark scored several baskets inside, while Clark also showed some versatility and knocked down a 3-pointer to push the Mustang lead to six.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game and BLHS ahead, Clark picked up his fourth foul.
With the senior leader of the team sitting on the bench, BLHS did just enough to keep the game tied at 53 when Clark returned.
"We just had to keep it close and keep playing good defense," Clark said. "Once I got back in I needed to not foul out and also stay aggressive."
Once Clark returned to the game, the senior made clutch baskets, hit timely free throws, and made a key assist to push the Mustangs ahead 63-57 with a minute to play.
MVL came right back down and cut the lead in half thanks to a 3-pointer from Bruns. After three made free throws by BLHS, it was Kris Goetzke making a ridiculously deep 3 just inside half court to keep the Chargers alive down three with nine seconds left.
BLHS senior Tyler Pagenkopf then hit two cold-blooded free throws to put the game out of reach and give the Mustangs a 68-63 win.
Clark finished the game with 27 points, while Kubesh added 16 and Tate Lange had 11.
"I try to lead the team and do whatever it takes to win," Clark said. "It was great to get a win. This (MVL) is a tough place to play and it really helps our confidence as a team."
MVL was led by Grunke with 18 points, Bruns with 15 and Chad Lease with 11.
"We know we can play and this is the best we've played in four games," Morgan said. "This is a good step for us and we need to keep making improvements."
BLHS improves to 2-0 (1-0) and will host Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City on Monday, while MVL drops to 0-4 (0-1) and will host Springfield on Tuesday.