WILLMAR -- Kelsey Evans is confident that if a shot doesn't fall for her Alex Lippert will be there to clean up. The junior post didn't disappoint Evans Friday.
Willmar drew up a play for Evans to take the final shot in the closing seconds, but the senior's driving layup bounced off the rim. However, Lippert was in the right place at the right time as she grabbed the offensive rebound and put it in the basket with one second left to give Central Lakes Conference co-leader Willmar a 70-68 come-from-behind win over St. Cloud Apollo.
"(Alex) is great to have and is a huge help for us," said Evans, who finished with 18 points. "If I can drive and draw in the defenders, she'll be right there to get the offensive rebound."
Willmar (6-1, 9-2) owned a double-digit lead in the first half with the help of Lippert's inside play and Hannah Smith's accuracy from the outside. Lippert netted eight points early on and Smith, who had a team-high 21 points, knocked three 3-pointers. But the Eagles (2-5, 7-6) clawed their way back and cut the Cardinals' lead down to just two at 39-37 at halftime.
St. Cloud Apollo kept the momentum going in the second half and eventually grabbed a 49-40 lead. Willmar didn't get its first field goal of the half until Smith made a 17-foot jumper on the right wing at the 10:09 mark.
The Cardinals then went on a 14-9 run to tie the game at 58-58 with 4½ minutes left. Evans broke the tie with a three-pointer from the left corner. Willmar would stretch its lead to six, but Alison Gray, who had a game-high 28 points, drained two 3-pointers to help the Eagles tie it up again with 30 seconds left.
Willmar then nearly turned the ball over, but it held on and designed a play for Evans to drive to the basket. Three defenders closed in to disrupt the play, but Lippert was there to save the day. She finished with 12 points.
"They are a composed bunch of kids," said Willmar coach Brad Atchison of his team. "They stayed with the game plan and found a way to win. There was no panic."
The Cardinals can't rest much as they take on Bemidji today on the road at 3 p.m.
Willmar 70, SC Apollo 68
SC Apollo (2-5, 7-6) 37 31 -- 68
Willmar (6-1, 9-2) 39 31 -- 70
ST. CLOUD APOLLO - 22-45 FG (7-8 3-pt); 19-24 FT; 29 rebounds; 23 fouls ... Scoring: Haley Asfeld 6, Moriah Novacinski 8, Alison Gray 28, Hailey Dunsmoor 3, Courtney Lynch 15, Andezu Orionzi 8 ... 3-point shots: Gray 5, Lynch 2 ... Rebound leaders: Orionzi 10, Dunsmoor 9 ... Assist leaders: Gray 4 ... Steal leaders: Orionzi 4
WILLMAR - 21-49 FG (6-16 3-pt); 22-35 FT; 38 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Kelsey Evans 18, Mariel Aamot 7, Lesley Christianson 6, Hannah Smith 21, Emily Nelsen 2, Alex Lippert 12, Jena Thompson 4 ... 3-point shots: Smith 3, Evans 2, Aamot 1 ... Rebound leaders: Lippert 9, Smith 7, Thompson 6 ... Assist leaders: Aamot 3, Smith 3 ... Steal leaders: Smith 3 ... Blocks: Lippert 4