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Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Litchfield senior forward Mitch Wollin shoots over Benson senior post Sam Peterson in the second half at St. John's University. Both scored 12 points.

Boys basketball: Dragons too hot for Benson

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COLLEGEVILLE -- How the years fly by.

Can it be 9 years already since the Litchfield Dragons last found their way to a section final?

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In 2003, Litchfield won the last of its three Class AA state champions in a four-year span.

They hadn't made it back to a section championship until now.

The Dragons clobbered Benson 60-40 early Tuesday evening at St. John's University for the Section 6AA South hardware. Next up is Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (25-2) in the section championship 6:30 p.m. Friday at Halenbeck Hall on the St. Cloud State campus.

The South final matched two original members of the West Central Conference but the teams hadn't met since 1991, when Litchfield departed to join the larger West Central North division.

The Dragons later joined the Wright County Conference which has a strong flavor of the metro and some good Class AAA programs, like Waconia, which narrowly beat out Litchfield for the conference championship.

The difference in strength of schedule was apparent. The Dragons sprang to a 9-0 lead on lay-ins by Mitch Wollin, Zach Kinney (off a steal) and Jon Terning (another steal), plus a 3-point bomb by Terning.

The gap grew to 13 points, 15-2, and at halftime it stood at 30-13.

Benson's principle weapon, Sam Peterson, was off the mark. The senior post got 2-of-10 shots to fall in the first half and would finish with only 12 points. He was alone in double figures for the Braves, who finish 18-10.

"I just couldn't score," said the 6-foot-5 senior, who suffered an ankle sprain late in the season and missed several games. "You have to give credit to Litchfield. They sagged in and were unselfish defensively helping out and switching men."

The Dragons can shoot, too. Fifty-six percent in the first half and 47 percent for the game on 25-of-23, though a coolish 5-of-18 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Terning finished with a game-high 15 points, Wollin with 12 and Kinny 10. The latter, a 6-foot-2 junior sparkplug, also supplied 12 rebounds and 5 assists while making 5-of-6 field-goal attempts.

Benson coach Roger Lindahl said the Dragons' defense was troublesome.

"You could tell they were more physical than we're used to," he said. "They pushed us out to the perimeter and when we did get inside we missed bunny after bunny."

Logan Connelly added 8 points and 6 rebounds for the Braves; Peterson nabbed 10 rebounds. The Braves never did locate their shooting glasses in front of the big crowd at Sexton Arena and shot just 28 percent (14-of-50) from the field.

The LPGE Eagles, who trounced Pierz 50-39 in the late game for the 6AA North prize, won the Prairie Conference title with a 15-1 record. While the Eagles have quality victories, notably over Sauk Centre and Albany of the West Central North, the Prairie is an AA/A loop which sets up another confrontation which should favor the Dragons.

Litchfield 60, Benson 40

Benson (18-10) 13 27 -- 40

Litchfield (23-5) 30 30 -- 60

BENSON - 14-50 FG (3-13 3-pt); 9-13 FT; 31 rebounds; 11 fouls ... Scoring: Carl Hoffman 4, Colin Ose 3, Matthew Ahrndt 5, Logan Connelly 8, Sam Peterson 12, Daniel Lee 2, Jacob Goff 6 ... 3-point shots: Connelly 2, Ahrndt 1 ... Rebound leaders: Peterson 10, Connelly 6, Ose 4 ... Assist leaders: Peterson 3 ... Steal leaders: Connelly 3, Peterson 2

LITCHFIELD - 25-53 FG (5-18 3-pt); 5-8 FT; 38 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Zach Whitchurch 5, Dylan Koll 7, Jon Terning 15, Zach Kinny 10, Mitch Wollin 12, Trevor Park 2, Tyler Larson 2, Joel Madsen 4, Riley Pater 3 ... 3-point shots: Terning 3, Whitchurch 1, Koll 1 ... Rebound leaders: Kinny 12, Whitchurch 4, Koll 4, Terning 4 ... Assist leaders: Kinny 5, Whitchurch 3, Terning 3 ... Steal leaders: Terning 2

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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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