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Willmar moves into 2AAA final

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MANKATO -- All it took was a little patience and great defense for the Willmar girls basketball team to put itself one win away from a state tournament trip.

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The Cardinals broke away from 28-28 halftime tie with Hutchinson to win their Section 2AAA semifinal 53-40 Saturday at Minnesota State-Mankato. Willmar, the No. 2-seed, will face top-ranked Worthington at 7 p.m. Thursday for the section championship.

It took a little time for the Cardinals (22-3) to warm up to what the Tigers (15-12) were trying to accomplish in the first half.

"They came out and played zone in the first half and we just stood around," said Willmar coach Brad Atchison.

He also noted the team picked up the pace toward the end of the half and carried that over to the final 20 minutes.

Defense, patience and free throws were huge factors in the second half. The Cardinals closed down on Hutchinson, allowing just 12 points.

Offensively, Willmar was able to find better shots.

"I thought were just a little more patient on offense," Atchison said. "In the second half, we went on a nice run."

But the Cardinals got into some foul trouble. Kelsey Evans and Alex Lippert were relegated to the bench in the last five minutes, but it didn't stop the Cardinals from sticking to the game plan.

"We went into a delay early and they came out and fouled us," said Atchison.

Willmar closed out the game making 11-of-13 tosses from the free-throw line.

Jena Thompson paced the Cardinals with 16 points and also had six rebounds. Evans added 11 points, seven assists and six boards.

Willmar 53, Hutchinson 40

Hutchinson (15-12) 28 12 -- 40

Willmar (22-3) 28 25 -- 53

HUTCHINSON - 14-51 FG (2-10 3-pt); 10-16 FT; 29 rebounds; 20 fouls ... Scoring: Kate Byron 4, Alissa Retterath 3, Michaela Larson 4, Nichole Wittman 10, Angela Tauer 10, Kaitlin Hjerpe 9 ... 3-point shots: Retterath 1, Tauer 1 ... Rebound leaders: Whitman 11, Larson 7 ... Assist leaders: Larson 4 ... Steal leaders: none

WILLMAR - 15-43 FG (4-13 3-pt); 17-22 FT; 31 rebounds; 16 fouls ... Scoring: Kelsey Evans 11, Mariel Aamot 8, Hannah Smith 9, Alex Lippert 8, Jena Thompson 16, Emily Nelsen 1 ... 3-point shots: Smith 2, Evans 1, Aamot 1 ... Rebound leaders: Lippert 7, Thompson 6, Evans 6 ... Assist leaders: Evans 7 ... Steal leaders: Smith 3

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