ST. PETER -- The Mankato West Scarlets stopped Willmar cold on Friday night with three-point shooting and a grinding defense in the Section 2AAA semifinals at Gustavus Adolphus College.
The No. 1 seed dismissed the overmatched Cardinals from the post-season 55-38 to advance to Thursday's championship game in Mankato.
Willmar had one lead, 4-2, and the last tie was 7-7 when Jordan Smith sank what would be Willmar's only three-pointer.
Mankato West, whose only loss was to Eden Prairie, scored the next seven points on the way to winning its 25th straight game.
Ray Teachout led West with 19 points, based on his six three-pointers.
Junior Taylor Filipek paced Willmar (17-11) with 14 points followed by Smith with 10 and Brian Reeves with seven. The same three had combined for 75 points in an 87-80 win over Hutchinson in the 2AAA quarterfinals.
"(West's) defense was the story," said Willmar head coach Steve Grove. "They cover like blanket; we couldn't penetrate and when we got the ball inside they smothered us. That was the game."
West has the best defense in Class AAA allowing 42 points per game but Willmar had the highest-scoring offense in Section 2AAA at 70 points per game.
The score at half was a stunning 20-13. The difference -- jump shots by the Scarlets good for four 3-pointers plus two mid-range two-pointers.
"We still felt positive at half," said Grove. "We were keeping them off the glass. They were shooting over our kids and making them but there's not much you can do about that."
Willmar's first-half offense amounted to seven points from Filipek, the trey by Smith, plus a free throw, and an inside shot by Brian Reeves, on a dish by Filipek, that opened Willmar's scoring.
The Scarlets' lineup is a special group. But for one, it's the same personnel only a year older that lost to Willmar 66-62 in overtime on the same Gus Young Court in the final a year ago.
Four of the starters, including Teachout at quarterback, played on the Scarlets' football team that won the AAAA title and finished 13-1.
The No. 4 seed never got inside the Scarlets' seven-point advantage at halftime.
Teachout drained four second-half, three-pointers on the way to a 44-30 bulge. When it got to 49-33, Grove used his fourth time out at 4:42.
But there was no making up ground on the Scarlets, who play at hyperspeed. They have now held 16 foes to 40-or-fewer points.
Smith, one of six seniors, in Cardinals first eight, finished 32 points short of 1,000 points.
Willmar 55, Mankato West 38
Willmar (17-11) 13 25 -- 38
Mankato West (26-1) 20 35 -- 55
WILLMAR - 14-34 FG (1-7 3-pt); 9-13 FT; 25 rebounds; 17 fouls ... Scoring: Jordan Smith 10,Taylor Filipek 14, James Neis 3, Ryan Filipek 4, Brian Reeves 7 3-point shots: Smith ... Rebound leaders: Smith 10, Reeves 7 .... Assist leaders: T. Filipek 3 ... Steal leaders: no leader
MANKATO WEST - 20-40 FG (9-17 3-pt); 6-10 FT; 24 rebounds; 19 fouls ... Scoring: Ben Dobson 6, Preston Brunz 12, Eric Cattrysse 3, Ethan Tramp 6, Ray Teachout 19, Aaron Richter 4, Mike Richter 2 ... 3-point shots: Teachout 6, Tramp 2, Brunz 1 ... Rebound, Assist, Steal leaders: not available