Taking care of business
WILLMAR -- It looked like Albany was on its way to improving its perfect record. But Willmar charged back Monday in the first round of the Willmar Bremer Bank Holiday Classic to hand the Huskies their first loss of the season.
Trailing by 12 early in the second half, Willmar survived a back-and-forth affair down the stretch to move into today's final with New London-Spicer by upending Albany 65-58.
It will be the eighth straight time Willmar (4-1) and the Wildcats (5-2) will meet in the championship game of the tournament. The Cardinals have won the last two meetings.
Willmar, winners of four straight, and NLS will tangle 25 minutes after the completion of the third-place game between Albany and Benson which starts at 6 p.m.
Albany (5-1) stretched its slim three-point lead at halftime to 12 after opening the second half by going on a 9-0 run.
Three-pointers from Kyle Lieser -- who scored a game-high 19 points -- Tony Harlander and Scott Litchy sparked the Huskies in the second half, but the Cardinals cleaned up the boards and got numerous second chances to soar back into the game.
Willmar pulled down 19 offensive rebounds to post a plus-11 advantage in total rebounds. Ryan Lawler grabbed nine rebounds for Willmar.
"Mo Mohamed made some steals and gave us some energy and Alex Grove scored five points in a stretch," said Willmar coach Steve Grove of his team's rally. "Our second unit-type players gave us some energy to get us within striking distance."
The teams traded leads until Willmar pulled ahead with about five minutes remaining. The Cardinals had only one-possession leads until Jimmy Unger hit two free throws with 3:30 left that put Willmar up 58-53. Albany pulled within two just under a minute later, but Unger drained a three-pointer in the corner to put Willmar up five again with two minutes left.
The Huskies got a basket from Lieser with just over a minute left to get within three again, but two free throws from Jeremy Schendel gave Willmar another two-possession lead. Lawler added a late basket to cap the scoring.
Unger and Schendel both netted 13 points and Lawler added nine points to nearly post a double-double.
Willmar 65, Albany 58
Albany (5-1) 24 34 -- 58
Willmar (4-1) 21 44 -- 65
ALBANY - 22-50 FG (7-17 3-pt); 7-15 FT; 27 rebounds; 17 fouls ... Scoring: Kyle Lieser 19, Tony Harlander 6, Luke Evans 5, Cody Stich 1, Dylan Shay 4, Scott Litchy 13, Ben Eli 10 ... 3-point shots: Lieser 2, Harlander 2, Litchy 3 ... Rebound, assist and steal leaders not available
WILLMAR - 21-60 FG (4-17 3-pt); 19-24 FT; 38 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Nate Esboldt 4, Jeremy Schendel 13, Jimmy Unger 13, Jake Rambow 4, Jeremy Olson 4, Mo Mohamed 3, Ryan Lawler 9, Jake Damhof 8, Alex Grove 7 ... 3-point shots: Unger 1, Rambow 1, Mohamed 1, Grove 1 ... Rebound leaders: Lawler 9, Olson 6, Damhof 6 ... Assist leaders: Lawler 4 ... Steal leaders: Unger 3 ... Blocks: Unger 5