Willmar upends NLS in final
WILLMAR -- How big was this game for Alex Lippert?
"I couldn't sleep last night," said the Willmar Cardinals senior center. "I just kept thinking about what I had to do."
Lippert, a 6-foot-4 senior, didn't look at all tired while scoring 16 points and nabbing 12 rebounds as the Cardinals tipped New London-Spicer 46-43 in overtime on Wednesday night.
The defensive struggle was watched by 807 fans who showed up for the conclusion of the two-day West Central Tribune WildCard girls basketball tournament.
Hannah Smith had only six points, but her two free throws with six seconds left in the extra period gave Willmar a three-point lead. New London-Spicer turned it over at the other end.
The game almost ended in regulation. Tied 39-39, New London-Spicer senior guard Taylor Thompsen, off a steal, dribbled down court quickly and got off a jumper from the top of the free-throw circle that bounced around the iron and then off.
Thompsen finished with 15 points, but she and her teammates went without a three-pointer make, the bread-and-butter of the Wildcats' offense many nights.
"(Willmar's defense was) tough and aggressive," said Thompsen. "They overplayed our wings and switched on our screens."
The Wildcats went 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
"We wanted to take away the three-pointers," said Willmar coach Brad Atchison. "They're so deadly out there. I don't think we zoned all night. We were man-to-man. The kids accepted the challenge and our defense was as good as I can remember the first half."
Willmar led 17-16 at the split.
The Cardinals (7-0) burst in front 31-23 on a three-pointer by Kayla Gimse, who followed that with a rebound and power move in the lane.
But NLS increased the pressure on the Willmar guards and turned turnovers to points. Justine Dammermann's steal and layup cut Willmar's lead to 36-34 and Taylor Thompson's two free throws with a minute left tied the score 39-39.
In overtime, Karli Wendlandt, who had a strong second half to finish with 11 points, scored first for a 41-39 NLS lead. But Gimse made a three-point play to put Willmar up 42-41 before Wendlandt scored inside again.
But Lippert hit at the other end to gain the lead again, after a NLS miscue, Smith was fouled and made both with six seconds left.
"Gimse and Sarah Kalloff both had big games off the bench for us," said Atchison. "And Lippert had a great game at both ends and holding down (Abbey) Knisley."
The 6-2 NLS center was held to six points while grabbing six rebounds and making four blocks.
Cassie Ziemer's eight steals led the Wildcats defense.
Both holiday tournaments at Willmar were thrillers, each ending with Willmar tipping NLS in overtime.
Willmar 46, NL-Spicer 43
NLS (8-1) 16 23 4 -- 43
Willmar (7-0) 17 22 7 -- 46
NEW LONDON-SPICER - 12-38 FG (0-9 3-pt); 17-29 FT; 21 rebounds; 16 fouls ... Scoring: Taylor Thompsen 15, Brogen Lothert 2, Justine Dammermann 6, Cassie Ziemer 3, Karli Wendlandt 11, Abbey Knisely 6 ... 3-point shots: none ... Rebound leaders: Wendlandt 6, Knisely 6 ... Assist leaders: Dammermann 4 ... Steal leaders: Ziemer 8, Thompsen 5 ... Blocks: Knisely 4
WILLMAR - 16-41 FG (3-11 3-pt); 11-15 FT; 31 rebounds; 20 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 3, Hannah Smith 6, Kayli Gimse 12, Jen Knake 5, Alex Lippert 16, Jena Thompson 4 ... 3-point shots: Aamot 1, Gimse 1, Knake 1 ... Rebound leaders: Lippert 12, Smith 7 ... Assist leaders: Thompson 4 ... Steal leaders: Aamot 2, Smith 2