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Cardinal girls avenge loss to Brainerd

WILLMAR -- Saturday night was a big game for the Willmar Cardinals and they rose to the occasion by drilling Brainerd 65-45.

That avenged their only conference loss and raised the Cardinals' record in the Central Lakes to 11-1.

It was the third conference loss for Brainerd, which had beaten the Cardinals 50-47 on Dec. 11.

"We were real nervous before the game," said senior forward Emily Nelsen, who supplied three steals, three assists and six points. "Coach (Brad Atchison) told us to come out strong and stick to our plays."

The Cardinals were expert at weaving the ball inside to convert short passes to lay-ups. Turnovers were few.

"We're getting stronger with the ball," said Nelson. "and we're playing with more confidence."

Willmar zipped to a 7-0 lead and trailed only briefly, the last time at 19-16. Junior forward Hannah Smith, who led Willmar with 18 points and 14 rebounds cashed a three, to tie it 19-all, and then center Alex Lippert funneled in a rebound for a 21-19 advantage on the way to a 34-22 lead by halftime.

Lippert and Jena Thompson each finished with 10 points. Kelsey Evans (12 points) hit a three to start the second half, and then snapped a pass to fellow guard Mariel Aamot for a lay-up. That was followed by Nelson feeding Thompson and Nelson scoring inside for a 21-point lead two minutes into the half.

Emily Thesing sank five 3s but Brainerd got no closer than 57-43.

"They outhustled and outrebounded us," commented Brainerd coach Carl Hendrickson.

Willmar 65, Brainerd 45

Brainerd (8-3, 9-6) 22 23 -- 45

Willmar (11-1, 14-3) 34 31 -- 65

BRAINERD - 16 FG (6 3-pt); 7-13 FT; 18 rebounds; 27 fouls ... Scoring: Alex Sauer 5, Emilee Branum 7, Kylie Stanfield 6, Tess Ratho 5, Emily Thesing 17, K.B. Capers 17 ... 3-point shots: Thesing 5, Sauer 1 ... Rebound leaders: Rahto 11 ... Assist leaders: Parsons 3 ... Steal leaders: 3 with 1 each

WILLMAR - 24-44 FG (3-9 3-pt); 14-28 FT; 32 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Kelsey Evans 12, Mariel Aamot 7, Hannah Smith 18, Emily Nelson 6, Hannah Murphy 2, Alex Lippert 10, Jena Thompson 10 ... 3-point shots: Evans 2, Smith 1 ... Rebound leaders: Smith 14, Aamot 5, Lippert 5 ... Assist leaders: Evans 4, Nelsen 3 ... Steal leaders: Nelsen 3 ... Blocked shots: Lippert 3