Free throws boost Willmar
HUTCHINSON -- Willmar overcame a subpar shooting performance from the field by cashing 22 of 30 free throws and limiting Hutchinson to seven points in the second half as the Cardinals' girls basketball team opened the season by tripping the host Tigers 52-40 Thursday in a non-conference tilt.
Alex Lippert led Willmar, ranked No. 6 in Class AAA, with 15 points after going 7-for-10 at the charity stripe and making four shots in the paint.
Willmar had the lead for most of the game's first six minutes before Hutchinson (1-1) took over the lead -- which was as much as seven points -- with the help of three 3-pointers from Alissa Retterath.
Willmar would get within three points on a couple of occasions, but the Tigers would enter halftime with a 33-28 lead.
The Cardinals then controlled the second half by going 18-for-22 from the free-throw line and limiting Hutchinson to just three field goals and one free throw. Angela Tauer netted 31 points in last year's meeting which Willmar won by three, but with Hannah Smith playing tough man-to-man defense, the senior forward was held to five points Thursday after fouling out with 3½ minutes remaining.
"The whole key to the ballgame was our defense in the second half," said Willmar coach Brad Atchison. "Our only adjustment (from the first half) was going to straight man-to-man. We played harder and helped each other out defensively."
Mariel Aamot followed Lippert with 13 points after making both of the team's two 3-pointers and Jena Thompson added nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Lippert also blocked six shots.
"It was a typical first game, a little ragged on both ends," said Atchison of the team shooting only 33 percent from the field. "It's a long season and it was a good first test for the girls."
The Cardinals will get another test Saturday as they travel to St. Cloud Tech High School to face defending Class AAA champion St. Michael-Albertville in the Central Lakes Conference vs. Mississippi 8 Showcase. The game is slated to start at 7 p.m.
Willmar 52, Hutchinson 40
Willmar 28 24 -- 52
Hutchinson 33 7 -- 40
WILLMAR - 14-42 FG (2-11 3-pt); 22-30 FT; 20 rebounds; 12 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 13, Hannah Smith 7, Sara Kallhoff 2, Jen Knake 6, Alex Lippert 15, Jena Thompson 9 ... 3-point shots: Aamot 2 ... Rebound leaders: Thompson 8, Lippert 5 ... Assist leaders: Thompson 7, Smith 5 ... Steal leaders: Smith 3, Thompson 3, Kallhoff 3 ... Blocks: Lippert 6
HUTCHINSON - 15 FG (4 3-pt); 6-10 FT; rebounds not available; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Nichole Wittman 13, Alissa Retterath 11, Kaylee Kucera 5, Angela Tauer 5, Olivia Decker 2, Molly Monahan 2, Laura Schommer 2 ... 3-point shots: Retterath 3, Kucera 1 ... Rebound, assist and steals leaders not available