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Willmar tops Fergus Falls

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Cardinals had a 15-point lead at halftime and needed nearly all of it to withstand a second-half surge by Fergus Falls on Thursday.

The Cardinals' lead shrank to as few as five points before pulling out the 58-49 Central Lakes Conference victory in girls basketball.

Mariel Aamot made 5-of-6 free-throw attempts in the final 1:11 of the game to help hold off the Otters (5-5, 9-7).

Scoring was balanced for the Cardinals, who stay at the top of the Central Lakes Conference standings at 9-1 and 14-2 overall.

Hannah Smith hit for 13 points, Alex Lippert and Jena Thompson 12 each, Aamot seven and Jen Knake six for Willmar. Lucinda Sweazey, off the bench, also scored six points.

Lippert had a big game defensively playing against the Otters' 6-2 sophomore Mariah Monke, who would get 19 points. Willmar's 6-4 post blocked 11 shots and forced several jump balls in key moments in the second half.

The Cardinals came out in a full-court press against the young Otters, who deploy mostly underclassmen, including two eighth-graders in prominent roles. It was 10-0 Willmar before Fergus Falls finally broke through and scored.

Down 41-26, Fergus Falls put together a 7-0 run to start the second half, including a three-point play by Monke and a trey by Sidney Schultz.

Willmar finally scored at the 13:20 mark on a drive down the lane by Thompson. Schultz, who finished with 17 points, hit another three-pointer to pull within 43-28, but Thompson hit from 10 feet and the Otters never got closer than seven again.

Willmar will host Sauk Rapids on Saturday on Parents Night.

Willmar 58, Fergus Falls 49

Fergus Falls (5-5, 9-7) 26 23 -- 49

Willmar (9-1, 14-2) 41 17 -- 58

FERGUS FALLS - 20-54 FG (4-18 3-pt); 5-7 FT; 24 rebounds; 20 fouls ... Scoring: Kate Angulski 2, Sidney Schultz 17, Brianna Rasmussen 9, Michaela Hauck 2, Mariah Monke 19 ... 3-point shots: Schultz 3, Rasmussen 1 ... Rebound leaders: Monke 10 ... Assist leaders: Monke 5 ... Steal leaders: Monke 4

WILLMAR - 20-37 FG (1-3 3-pt); 17-21 FT; 27 rebounds; 11 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 7, Lucinda Sweazey 6, Hannah Smith 13, Sara Kallhoff 2, Jen Knake 6, Alex Lippert 12, Jena Thompson 12 ... 3-point shots: Smith 1 ... Rebound leaders: Lippert 9, Thompson 7 ... Assist leaders: Knake 4 ... Steal leaders: Thompson 5, Smith 4, Knake 4 ... Blocks: Lippert 11

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