WATERVILLE — Despite a myriad of things stacked against them, the short-handed Blooming Prairie boys basketball team was a last-second 3-pointer away from stealing a game on the road against the second-ranked team in the state.
Instead, the Awesome Blossoms left the W-E-M gymnasium with a 53-52 loss and watched as any hope of winning the Gopher Conference championship go up in smoke after Grant McBroom banked in a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer sounded.
“There were so very many things that could have changed the outcome (and) we did a lot of things really well,” BP coach Nate Piller said. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t close the deal. It’s not one person’s fault. That’s the game.”
Prior to McBroom’s game-winning bucket, Gabe Hagen scored from in close with just three seconds on the clock to put the Blossoms on top 52-50. It gave Blooming Prairie its first lead since the early portion of the first half and appeared to seal an improbable victory for a BP team that was down an all-conference forward and a pair of key role players.
“We went into that game in tough shape with injuries and absences,” Piller said. “That just adds to the frustration in some ways. But if you told me that an all-conference player (Karson Vigeland) would be unable to play along with two others in the top seven and that our starting point guard would need to tough-out an ankle injury, you’d be maniacal to think we even had a chance. If you didn’t know the character of the guys in white uniforms tonight, you would have thought we’d lose by 20 under the circumstances.”
Hagen’s late bucket was the final two of his team-high 19 points while teammate Kaden Thomas almost single-handedly carried the BP offense in the second half, drilling four 3-pointers and scoring 15 of his 18 points in the stretch. Drew Kittelson provided a consistent effort at both ends and chipped in 11 points.
McBroom led all scorers with 21 points.
The victory gives the Bucs (21-1 overall, 12-0 GC) a two-game lead in the loss column atop the standings and unofficially clinched sole the outright conference championship as they have just two league games remaining, one of which is against winless Faribault Bethlehem Academy.
The Blossoms (17-3, 8-2) have four conference contests left, beginning on Thursday when they travel to USC for the first of two matchups against the Rebels in a seven-day span.
W-E-M 53, Blooming Prairie 52
Blooming Prairie scoring: Gabe Hagen 19, Kaden Thomas 18, Drew Kittelson 11, Jarrett Larson 2, Zach Archer 2. Halftime: W-E-M 29, BP 23