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