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Willmar's Dean Stier, left, and Alex Grove break upcourt after a takaway in the second half at Mankato East Saturday.

2AAA Boys Basketball: Mankato East downs Willmar 74-61 in semifinals

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MANKATO -- No. 1 seed Mankato East disposed of Willmar in the Section 2AAA semifinal round on Saturday evening in the Cougars gymnasium 74-61.

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The Cardinal played from behind -- sometimes far behind -- the entire game losing to the Cougars in the same gym for the second year in a row to end the Willmar season.

The Cardinals, who finish 18-9 and with the Central Lake Conference trophy in hand, fell behind by as many as 23 points in the first half but fought back to get inside 10 several times in the second half. A 3-pointer by Mo Mohamud at 7:09 cut the East lead to six points, 58-52.

But East answered with four straight free throws to build the cushion back to double digits.

East (24-4) was led by guard E.J. Haymore, who got 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to deflect Willmar surges. Brett Olson finished with 16 points and 6-foot-6 Brody Ziegler with 15, only two in the second half when he sat in foul trouble.

For Willmar Jimmy Unger got 16 points, Dean Stier 14, Alex Grove 10 and Mohamud 9.

The Cougars shot 54 percent to 37 percent for Willmar, though the Cardinals did drain 11 of 12 free throw chances.

Out of the chute, Willmar matched East basket-for-basket but then iced up and the Cougars went on 29-7 burst over the next 13 minutes that ultimately proved destructive to the Cardinals bid for a place in the section final.

M. East 74, Willmar 61

Willmar (18-9)...................26 33-- 61

Mankato East (24-4).........43 31-- 74

WILLMAR - 21-57 FG (8-28 3-pt); 11-12 FT; 33 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Dean Stier 14, Joe Leuze 2, Jimmy Unger 16, Jeremy Olson 2, Mo Mohamud 9, Austin Rambow 8, Alex Grove 10 ... 3-point shots: Stier 3, Unger 2, Mohamud 3 ... Rebound leaders: Stier 3, Leuze 4, Unger 2, Olson 2, Mohamud 4, Rambow 11, Grove 2 ... Assist leaders: Stier 2, Unger 2, Mohamud 3... Steal leaders: Stier 3, Mohamud 2

MANKATO EAST - 26-48 FG (3-12 3-pt); 19-26 FT; 30 rebounds; 12 fouls ... Scoring: E.J. Haymore 18, Brett Olson 16, Aron Peterson 7, Brandon Kowalski 8, Taylor Hayenga 8, Brody Ziegler 15, Jon Martin 2 ... 3-point shots: Olson 1, Peterson 2 ... Rebound leaders: Ziegler 6, Kowalski 5, Haymore 4, Olson 4 ... Assist leaders: Haymore 5 ... Steal leaders: Haymore 3

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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