Cardinals’ comeback cages Bears

FAIRMONT – Fairmont combined air-tight defense with a potent interior offensive attack during the second half of Saturday’s basketball clash with Byron to fuel its cardiac comeback.

The Cardinals limited the Bears to just 29-percent shooting from the floor during the final 18 minutes, while erupting for an incredible 21-2 offensive avalanche out of the break to transform a seven-point halftime deficit into a 48-42 victory in Fairmont.

“Our man-to-man defense really stepped it up during the second half today,” Fairmont head coach Don Waletich said in reference to his lineup halving Byron’s offensive rebounds to four in the second half. “I thought (Sierra) Schultz did a nice job of shutting down their top scorer (Vanessa Anderson) in the second half.”

The hard-working 5-foot-7 Anderson garnered eight of her game-high 13 boards and netted six of her eight points during the opening 15 minutes to help the Bears build a 17-8 edge over the hometown Cardinals.

Courtney Mosloski, however, came off the bench at the 3:30 juncture to breathe new life into Fairmont’s offensive effort, delivering six of her eight points to ignite an 11-7 surge to cap the first half.

Trailing 26-19, the Cardinals’ ball-hawking defense limited the Bears’ second offensive chances, while triggering a number of fastbreak opportunities during the early stages of the second segment.

Schultz, who tallied eight points and distributed three assists, used a Kayla Lardy screen to drive the lane and hit an 8-foot bank shot to trigger Fairmont’s string of 13 unanswered points en route to the 21-2 run.

Lardy, who neared double-double territory with 12 points and eight rebounds, cleaned the offensive glass on back-to-back possessions for putback baskets before power forward Alex Christianson spotted Kristen Campe for a left-wing 3-pointer to claim a 30-28 lead with 12:33 remaining.

Emily Kim hit solo free throws to bookend Lardy’s next putback basket before Byron forward Kailey Webster converted Anderson’s assist for a low-post lay-in at the 9-minute mark.

Christianson and Lardy worked the paint to combine for seven of the Cardinals’ ensuing eight points to put the game out of reach at 42-30 with 3:54 to go.

After Schultz converted a one-and-one situation to maintain Fairmont’s 12-point edge 30 seconds later, Bears’ point guard Mackenzie Damerow pocketed three straight steals to help whittle the visitors’ deficit to 44-38 with 1:43 remaining.

Damerow converted a layup, spotted Reed Klunder for a baseline jumper and hit Anderson for a breakaway chance that produced two free throws to carve the Cardinals’ lead to six.

Christianson, who delivered six points and a team-best 10 rebounds, and Schultz connected on two free throws each during the final 40 seconds to help preserve the home team’s comeback win.

Klunder topped all scorers with 13 points for the Bears, while Anderson finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and three assists.

Fairmont (5-1, 2-0 South Central) travels to St. Peter for a 7:30 p.m. conference game on Thursday.