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Cardinals put shackles on KMS in semis

Emily Nelsen, left, of Willmar outrebounds Tracy Braaten of KMS in the West Central Tribune WildCard Tournament Monday at New London. Tribune photo by T.J. Bartelt1 / 2
Hannah Smith, center, of Willmar and Bailey Carlson, right, of KMS battle for possession of the ball during the first half Monday. Looking on is Sarah Carlson, left, of KMS. Tribune photo by T.J. Bartelt2 / 2

NEW LONDON -- Willmar's not going to be much bigger than a lot of teams it plays in the Central Lakes Conference, but the Cardinals girls basketball team utilized its height advantage to take care of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 60-47 in the semifinals of the West Central Tribune WildCard Tournament Monday.

Willmar (6-1), which has won three straight, will play New London-Spicer in today's championship game at approximately 7:45 p.m. KMS (4-3), which had its three-game winning streak snapped, will face Benson for third place at 6 p.m.

Kelsey Evans led Willmar with 18 points and nine rebounds.

Bailey Carlson finished with 16 points to pace KMS, including four 3-pointers.

Switching defenses often and packing in the paint kept the Fighting Saints out on the perimeter and allowed Willmar to grab a decisive edge in rebounding, 36-22.

The Cardinals also held KMS' leading scorer, Sarah Carlson, to seven points overall.

"We started off good, but we started to slow down in the first half," said Hannah Smith, who scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds for the Cardinals. "We had to keep Sarah Carlson pressured out on the (perimeter), because we knew she likes to drive in the lane."

Willmar blasted out to an 18-3 lead in the first half, thanks to three-pointers from Kelsey Evans and Smith, plus four straight free throws from Mariel Aamot and Alex Lippert. But the Saints climbed back into contention with two 3s from Bailey Carlson to trail 33-24 at halftime.

"Carlson got a few threes right away, so we switched to a zone. We were leaving the baseline runner open, so we were switching (defenses) back and forth," Smith said.

Scoring was sporadic to start the second half, with only 11 points recorded between the teams in the first nine minutes. Eventually, Willmar's size wore down KMS in the paint and let Smith grab a couple of offensive rebounds and open up Evans for more three-pointers.

Alex Lippert had seven points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals. Jena Thompson led with six steals and three blocked shots. Demi Young added eight points for the Fighting Saints.

Willmar 60, KMS 47

Willmar (6-1) 33 27 -- 60

KMS (4-3) 24 23 -- 47

WILLMAR - 20-45 FG (6-11 3-pt); 14-24 FT; 36 rebounds; 12 fouls ... Scoring: Kelsey Evans 18, Mariel Aamot 6, Hannah Smith 13, Emily Nelsen 3, Hannah Murphy 5, Jennifer Knake 2, Alex Lippert 7, Kayli Gimse 1, Jena Thompson 5 ... 3-point shots: Evans 4, Smith 1, Murphy 1 ... Rebound leaders: Evans 9, Lippert 7, Smith 5, Thompson 5 ... Assist leaders: Murphy 5 ... Steal leaders: Thompson 6 ... Blocks: Thompson 3

KERKHOVEN-MURDOCK-SUNBURG - 18-55 FG (6-19 3-pt); 5-10 FT; 22 rebounds; 17 fouls ... Scoring: Bailey Carlson 16, Melissa Just 2, Sarah Carlson 7, Demi Young 8, Britta Diem 7, Katelyn Lottman 1, Brooke Carlson 3 ... 3-point shots: Bailey Carlson 4, Diem 1, Brooke Carlson 1 ... Rebound leaders: Just 5, S.Carlson 5 ... Assist leaders: S.Carlson 5 ... Steal leaders: S.Carlson 3