BLOOMING PRAIRIE — In a high profile finale to a grueling three-game week, the Blooming Prairie boys basketball had a number of chances to tie the game late, but simply ran out of gas against No. 5-ranked W-E-M on Friday night and suffered a 64-60 loss in a battle between the top two teams in the Gopher Conference.
“This was our first three-game week of the season,” BP coach Nate Piller said of his team that played a pair of tight contests against Southland and Grand Meadow last Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. “Yet, we still competed every step of the way against one of the top ranked teams in the state who had all week to prepare for us. I like our team tonight more than I did follow the two wins earlier this week. I thought we played better basketball tonight at both ends of the court and we competed with unbelievable tenacity.”
The loss is just the first of the season for the Awesome Blossoms, who came into the showdown having won seven consecutive games to open the season.
The decision lifts the Buccaneers into sole-possession of first place in the conference at 5-0 while the Blossoms drop to a tie for second place.
Though the defeat set them a couple paces back, the season is still relatively young and the Blossoms have more than a month to make up the one-game difference in the loss column while creating separation between themselves and the likes of Maple River (3-1 in Gopher) and USC (4-2). Blooming Prairie has yet to play the Eagles and the Rebels and has a rematch with W-E-M scheduled for Feb. 11.
With W-E-M being housed in Section 2-A, the setback won’t affect the Blossoms’ directly when it comes to the race for the top seed in Section 1-A.
ON THE FLOOR
The Blossoms scored the game’s first bucket, but the lead didn’t last long as the Bucs answered on the other end with a 3-pointer and did not trail for the remainder of the game.
W-E-M out-scored BP 30-18 from downtown and led by as many as 10 points deep into the second half.
“That was the type of night it was,” Piller said. “We made twos and they made threes. That was the difference.”
The Blossoms clawed their way back into the game down the stretch and drew within a single possession on three occasions in the game’s final 90 seconds, but “just didn’t make the basket,” according to Piller.
“That’s part of the game,” he added. “That’s out of our control. They were good shots. That’s part of the game. If we can take the court on a daily basis with the effort and focus we had tonight, we have some good things ahead of us.”
With Gabe Hagen and Kaden Thomas drawing most of the Bucs’ defensive attention, Karson Vigeland stepped up and carried the offense for a large portion of the game, scoring a season-high 20 points.
Thomas scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half while Hagen netted 10 of his 11 in the second.
W-E-M’s Grant McBroom drilled four 3-pointers in the first half and led all-scorers with 29 points.
The Blossoms hit the road for a conference game against intra-county foe Medford on Tuesday.
Blooming Prairie 60
Isaac Ille 8, Zach Archer 3, Karson Vigeland 20, Parker Vaith 3, Kaden Thomas 13, Zach Weber 2, Gabe Hagen 11.Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on Twitter.com @OPPJonW