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Johnson makes all 15 shots; Wildcats rout Benson, 91-61

New London-Spicer center Aaron Johnson goes up for a basket, this one over Benson's Jeff Berens in the first half at Willmar on Friday. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton1 / 2
New London-Spicer senior guard Jay Moten drives to the basket while defended by Benson's Aaron Lindahl in the first half at Willmar on Friday. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 2

WILLMAR -- A year ago, Aaron Johnson was a B-squad player on a boys basketball team that was the understudy to the eventual Class AA state champions at New London-Spicer.

This season, Johnson is at the forefront of a promising bunch of juniors who have stepped in to help replace the five senior starters that graduated.

Johnson, a 6-foot-6 center, played a game he won't soon forget as the Wildcats leveled Benson 91-61 Friday in the first semifinal round game of the Willmar/Bremer Bank Classic.

The younger brother of 1,000-point scorer Dave Johnson, now at Mayville State, finished with 31 points to go with 13 rebounds.

He didn't miss a shot in 15 attempts from the field. The baskets came off sharp passes or on put-back off missed shots by teammates.

"I've had a couple of 20-point games this year and last year on B-squad I had a 29-point game," he said explaining his high-game history. "I don't know, I just got a lot of good passes and everything went down."

The win was the fifth straight for the Wildcats after two losses to start the year.

Senior Jay Moten, one of the few returnees to see extended varsity action last year, added 21 points, Aaron Jenny 10 and Jayme Moten, Jay's sophomore brother, nine.

Chris Tobkin threaded six assists and Justin Zylstra grabbed nine rebounds.

Benson lost its third tournament game in eight days, counting two at its own invite. The Braves were outrebounded, 46-15, but still could have stayed closer with sounder shooting (22 of 55 for 37 percent).

Brennen Kent scored 22 to lead the Braves followed by Aaron Lindahl with 19.

With a fast, deep and athletic roster, NLS coach Matt Cordes rotated in 11 players in the first half on the way to a 48-34 bulge.

Johnson scored his team's first eight points of the second half.

"He's started to establish himself," said Cordes of his junior center. "At first, he was trying to be quick but he's better just holding position. He may not look powerful, but his core is so strong."

Erik Tengwall, another veteran of the state tournament team, sat out the game with an Achilles tendon injury, but may be ready to go in today's championship.

NL-Spicer 91, Benson 61

Benson (1-4) 34 27 -- 61

NLS (5-2) 48 43 -- 91

BENSON - 22-59 FG (4-10 3-pt); 13-18 FT; 15 rebounds; 15 fouls ... Scoring: Anthony Frank 3, Dan Martin 3, Jeff Berens 5, Brennan Kent 22, Aaron Lindahl 19, Jed Eix 2, Josh Cluever 7 ... 3-point shots: Frank 1, Martin 1, Kent 2 ... Rebound leaders: Lindahl 2, Kent 2, Cluever 2 ... Assist leaders: Kent 6 ... Steal leaders: Lindahl 2, Kent 2

NEW LONDON-SPICER - 39-62 FG (3-11 3-pt); 10-14 FT; 46 rebounds; 19 fouls ... Scoring: Luke Lagergren 5, Chris Tobkin 4, Jay Moten 21, Derek Henle 2, Sam Schmid 7, Jayme Moten 9, Aaron Jenny 10, Justin Zylstra 2, Aaron Johnson 31 ... 3-point shots: Jay Moten 2, Jayme Moten 1 ... Rebound leaders: Tobkin 6, Zylstra 9, Johnson 13 ... Assist leaders: Henle 3, Schmid 3 ... Steal leaders: none