NEW LONDON — There was little doubt that the Willmar girls basketball team was going to come away with a victory against Heritage Christian Academy in the Wild-Card Tournament’s third-place game Saturday night.
The Eagles, now 0-8, are a Class A school that managed to score just 17 points in Friday’s loss to tournament champ New London-Spicer and has surpassed 40 points only twice this season.
But the Cardinals weren’t in a mood to coast. They had something to prove, mostly to themselves, after a 27-point loss to Minnehaha Academy in the tournament opener on Friday.
“We had to show we were better than we showed in that game,” said senior center Anne Dunham, who led the Cardinals with 22 points and 7 rebounds in an 83-43 win over the Eagles Saturday.
“Coming off (Friday) night,” said Cards senior forward Heather Horning, “we had to pick up our spirits.”
The Cardinals (6-4) got their mojo back, not so much by winning but by sustaining the positive aspects of their game.
Willmar shot 42 percent from the field and made 8 of 17 3-point shots. They also nailed 15 of 18 foul shots and won the rebounding battle 40-16. Defensively, they allowed the Eagles just 33 shots.
Their effort bodes well as they head into the heart of the Central Lakes Conference season.
“We’ve got a tough schedule ahead,” Cardinals head coach Dustin Carlson said. “There are not many easy games in the Central Lakes Conference.”
The Cardinals held together well while playing a schedule that put them on the road for 10 of their first 12 games.
But after traveling to Sartell on Jan. 4 and Sauk Centre on Jan. 7, Willmar will leave town just once in the next month, playing nine of its next 10 games at home.
“If we can start with a (CLC win) at Sartell, we’ve got a lot of home games coming up,” Horning said. “That will help with our confidence.”
“We got a lot of tough teams out of the way early,” Dunham said. “Now we know what the competition is. We want to play like we did tonight and keep building our confidence.”
Carlson, in his first season, brought in new offensive and defensive schemes that the team has absorbed and with which it is now growing comfortable. He sees the Cards’ best days ahead.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Carlson said. “Offensively, we’re coming along. We’d like to have a couple more wins but the season is young.”
Heritage Christian 43
Heritage (0-8)................. 20 23 — 43
HERITAGE CHRISTIAN – 14-33 FG (5-6 3-pt); 10-16 FT; 16 rebounds; 13 fouls … Scoring: Individual statistics not available
WILLMAR – 30-70 FG (8-17 3-pt); 15-18 FT; 40 rebounds; 14 fouls … Scoring: Courtney Magnuson 13, Heather Horning 13, Anne Dunham 22, Kalley Fosso 8 Sami Doering 5, Caroline Bell 3, Jennie Magnuson 6, Allie Roehl 9, Leah Ruter 4 … 3-point shots: 8-17 … Rebound leaders: Dunham 7, C.Magnuson 6, J.Magnuson 6 … Assist leaders: Horning 5, Kassy Linbo 4 … Steal leaders: Fosso 4, Horning 3, C.Magnuson 3