MANKATO — A pair of evenly matched Gopher Conference rivals squared off Friday night at Mankato East High School for the right to move on to the Section 2AA, South Subsection boys basketball championship.
No. 2 seed New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and No. 3 Waterville-Elysian-Morristown split their regular-season meetings with each team winning on its own home court by nearly identical double-digit margins. The rubber game produced another double-digit victory as Waterville-Elysian-Morristown took control of a tight game late in the first half and pulled away for a 79-64 victory.
The evenly matched theme played out for the first 13 minutes. With NRHEG leading 20-19, WEM’s Landon Harmon started a 10-2 spurt for the Buccaneers. He drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to gain the lead.
Two baskets later, he nailed another 3 from the left wing and ended the run with a baseline floater putting WEM up 29-22 with 3:10 left in the first.
“He can explode,” said WEM coach Jeff Wagner. “Landon’s one of those kids when he gets rolling, he can just stand up and shoot it over you. He’s a good player.”
Harmon made five 3s on the evening on his way to 22 points.
The senior didn’t lead his team in scoring though; it was freshman Zac Olson who scored 26 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.
Harmon and Olson helped build on the 34-25 halftime lead to start the second. Olson first made a couple of inside baskets, and Harmon connected on a pair of 3s from the left side as the Buccaneers bumped their lead to 47-34 with 13 minutes to go.
“The team did a great job playing defense,” said Harmon. “We took away their curl cuts. We tried to do the best boxing out. We didn’t do a great job right away, but we just kept playing hard and got the lead up there.”