No. 8 Fairmont knocks out JCC

ST. JAMES – Class AA, No. 8-ranked Fairmont earned a spot in Friday night’s Section 3, South Sub-Section girls basketball championship game.

Point guard Sierra Schultz produced a game-high 16 points to complement six rebounds, four steals and a game-best five assists to steer the No. 1-seeded Cardinals to a 65-47 sub-section semifinal triumph over the No. 4-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies in St. James.

Fairmont (24-4) will square off against No. 2-seeded Martin County West (20-4) for the South Sub-Section crown at 7 p.m. Friday night in Windom.

The Mavericks reached the sub-section finale via a 59-44 victory over Windom Area.

The Huskies ended their season with a 9-17 record.

“Give Jackson County Central credit – they came to play tonight and kept the game close in the first half,” said Fairmont mentor Don Waletich, whose team coasted to a 74-33 regular-season decision over the Huskies on Jan. 11. “But I was very pleased with how our girls responded midway through the first half and to open the second.”

After trading the lead back-and-forth eight times during the initial stages, center Kayla Lardy hit a putback basket to knot the game at 13-all and trigger the Cardinals’ pivotal 8-0 run.

“It was a gritty effort on our part,” Fairmont assistant coach Sara Junkermeier said in reference to the red-and-white’s 34-29 rebounding edge.

Emily Kim added to Fairmont’s boardwork numbers by tracking down her own long-range miss to toss in a runner. Schultz then cleared the defensive glass and spotted Lardy in the low post to swing a 17-13 lead to the Cardinals and cause the Huskies to call timeout at the 6:20 juncture.

Schultz then garnered another defensive carom, drove coast-to-coast and tossed in a pull-up jumper from 4 feet.

Kaylee Burmeister, who cleared the 1,000-point career scoring mark in the second half, hit a solo free throw for JCC only to watch as Fairmont’s Sierra Schrader delivered a clutch traditional 3-point play to widen the lead to 22-14.

Kristen Campe, whose basketball-hawking defense limited the high-scoring Burmeister to nine points, then worked the offensive boards for a putback basket to trigger the Cardinals’ ensuing 8-2 surge to eventually build a 10-point lead by intermission.

Schultz sank a solo charity toss for Fairmont before JCC guard Rachel Johnson converted a one-and-one situation. Schultz then snapped the nets on a 3-pointer off a Schrader assist before Schultz traded roles in distributing a low-post entry pass to Alex Christianson for a leaner in the paint.

Christianson’s free throws, followed by consecutive steals-turned-baskets by Campe and Schultz, extended the Cardinals’ edge to 40-26 only 2 minutes into the second half.

Johnson drilled a 3-pointer out of JCC’s timeout and point guard Julia Schumann later nailed another trey to whittle the Huskies’ deficit to 42-34, but Fairmont would counter again.

Schultz tossed in a runner, Lardy drilled a left-wing 3-pointer and Courtney Mosloski tossed in two of her 12 points off a Campe assist to build a 15-point gap with 11 minutes to go.

Mosloski delivered a co-game-best five steals to complement her dozen points for the Cardinals, while Lardy generated 11 points, a game-best six blocked shots and five boards.

Christianson supplied a team-best eight rebounds to go with six points, Campe scored six to complement a co-game-high five steals, Schrader contributed five points and seven boards, Kim chipped in six points, while Larissa Becker added a late 3-pointer.

Schumann tallied 10 points and dished out three assists for JCC, while Burmeister doled out four assists and grabbed eight boards to go with her nine points.