The New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Panthers showed everyone in Faribault Bethlehem Academy's Van Orsow Auditorium on Saturday why they are one of the top-ranked teams in Class 2A.

The Cardinals had no answer for 6-foot-8 senior post Tyler Raiman in the first half as the No. 9 Panthers built a 33-16 lead and he tallied 18 points. The final score was 57-40.

The win gives NRHEG a 24-2 record heading into the playoffs, with seeds on Monday, and a tie for the Gopher Conference title with Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. The Bucs and Panthers are also in the same subsection, so a rematch would not be out of the question.

Bethlehem Academy came into the regular-season finale playing well, according to head coach Eric Hildebrandt, and it was senior day for the rare Saturday afternoon game.

Seniors Hunter Dienst, Cole Caron and Brendan Trump started the game and finished the game together on the floor and were our Faribault State Farm Insurance agents Faribault players of the game. Hildebrandt says their leadership has been a key in BA's winning season.

The Panthers were led by Raimann's 22 points, junior Benji Lundberg had 12 points off the bench and 6-foot-5 senior Oakley Baker added 10 points.

The Cardinals were led by Alex Bongers with 13 points; Brendan Trump added 11.

Bethlehem Academy was 8 of 9 from the free throw line while NRHEG was 14 of 16, led by Raimann's 6 for 6 performance.

Bethlehem Academy finishes their regular season 14-11.

The West Subsection of Section 1 Class A already picked their seeds for the playoffs before the tip-off of the Cardinal game. Bethlehem Academy is the No. 3 seed and hosts Blooming Prairie on Thursday night. The top seed is defending Subsection and Section champion Goodhue.

No. 2 seed Southland will host either Lyle/Pacelli or Christian Life Academy on Thursday. No. 10 seed Christian Life is in No. 7 seed Lyle Tuesday. Goodhue awaits the No. 8 Glenville-Emmons vs. No. 9 Leroy-Ostrander winner.

The West Subsection semifinals are Tuesday, March 7, at 6PM and 7:30PM in the Rochester Mayo Civic Auditorium.

BA Seniors L to R Hunter Dienst, Brendan Trump, Cole Caron-photo of program cover by Gordy Kosfeld