The No. 7 seed Breckenridge Cowboys (4-21) hadn’t won in nearly a month entering Monday’s Section 6A play-in game vs. No. 10 seed New York Mills (2-25). Numerous games against Class 2A powerhouses throughout the season readied Breckenridge for a successful playoff opener, as the Cowboys easily dispatched the Eagles at home by a score of 79-47.
Landon Blaufuss hopped back on the double-double train with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals. Daymon Smith led the scoring effort with 17 points and Alex Sanchez scored 12. Dylan Bernotas helped Breckenridge establish an early lead by knocking down three shots from behind the arc.
“It’s a good feeling to see Dylan getting his legs under him and Daymon shooting it well again,” Breckenridge Head Coach Jordan Christensen said. “We opened up some space for Landon and Alex is learning how to make plays. We’re a lot better than where we started.”
Smith has made 77 threes this year, tying the single-season program record held by Bryan Jacklitch. Breckenridge will need him to stay hot if it hopes to compete on the road against No. 2 seed Battle Lake (22-4) at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 8. Breckenridge traded buckets with the Battlers in the third game of the season, losing 69-67.
New York Mills struggled to advance the ball against a storming full-court press led by the length and speed of Smith, Sanchez, Cam Nieto, Jacob Kunkel and Beau Beyer.
“We needed that. It was good to see everybody contribute,” Christensen said. “Our defense kinda set the tone for the game and the pace of game we want to play — flying around, getting after them and letting our athletes make plays.”
Beyer had a highlight-reel swat negated by a phantom foul, one of many aggressive defensive plays the junior brought to the table. Beyer sprinkled contributions across the box score with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.
“Beau made a play in the first half where he took off about 15 feet behind their player and made a steal. It was a huge play, an energy booster. Our whole bench was screaming and loving it,” Christensen said.
Bernotas looked agile and decisive, as he continues to give Breckenridge solid minutes in his return from season-ending knee surgery during football. The senior guard provided 9 points and 3 assists, whipping skip passes over the top of the Eagles zone and proving he’s no longer a defensive liability by ratcheting up his ball pressure.
“I feel really good and the reason is because of my therapy every other day, just making sure that quad is awake,” Bernotas said. “I’ve been getting a lot more comfortable and coach has been getting us in on the gun here in the mornings.”
With single-digit losses to Battle Lake, No. 3 seed Lake Park-Audubon and No. 5 seed Park Christian, Breckenridge is right in the mix heading into the section quarterfinals. March madness is a beautiful thing, and the Cowboys hope to wrangle up some of that upset magic with the regular season now behind them.
Robert has spent over a decade reporting Twin Towns Area athletics, coaching baseball and officiating sporting events. From MMA to golf, he covers the entire sports spectrum through stories, photos and videos. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2021 by the North Dakota Newspaper Association.