NEW ULM - The Fairmont Cardinals boys basketball team entered its meeting with the New Ulm Eagles unbeaten in the South Central Conference at 6-0.
The Cardinals left with their conference record unblemished but it was not without a battle.
Fairmont survived a spurt of poor shooting in the second half (9-for-21 at one point) thanks to 13 second half New Ulm turnovers to come away with a hard-fought 71-58 win.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Sam Miller (center) goes up for a shot between a pair of Fairmont defenders during the second half of the Eagles’ loss Friday at NUHS.
Levi Becker led the Cardinals (16-3, 7-0) with 16 points. Justin Barnes added 14 points and Mitch Pfingsten added 13.
Grant Kannegiesser paced New Ulm (5-15, 3-5) with 21 points.
"We came out with a lot of energy tonight," Eagles coach Steve Foley said. "We matched up with them pretty well. We took it at them - we talked about not letting Fairmont go on runs. It was a good first half."
New Ulm stayed almost even with the SCC leaders in the first 18 minutes and took a 16-15 lead on a Kannegiesser free throw. New Ulm increased that to an 18-15 advantage on a Tyler Dittrich putback basket with 13 minutes left in the first half.
But Barnes came off of the bench for the Cardinals and scored six straight ponts to give Fairmont a 25-19 lead. It was a lead that the Cardinals never lost.
Four free throws from Kannegiesser cut the lead to 25-23 before Barnes canned a jumper for a 27-23 lead.
Baskets from Riley Drahota, Kannegiesser and a Dittrich free throw pulled the Eagles to within 33-32 before Barnes canned two jumpers for a 37-33 Fairmont lead at halftime.
New Ulm stayed close at 41-38 early in the second half on a Dittrich basket off of a feed from Jackson Yackley.
"We were right there," Foley said. "But we had those turnovers lead to points and they stretched that into a lead."
Fairmont built a lead of 57-44 on a Jay Ruen basket at the 8:24 mark.
New Ulm could not recover from its earlier turnovers, getting as close as 65-58 on two Yackley free throws before Fairmont closed out the game with the last six points.
"We could not hit that big shot," Foley said. "Our turnovers gave them tremendous momentum - they feed off of turnovers. We did a good job most of the game taking care of the ball (eight turnovers the first half). Unfortunately there for a while we threw the ball away. That doomed us from there on out."