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Willmar slips past Marshall

Willmar's Kelsey Evans, center, snags a rebound from Marshall's Ashley Schultze, right, in the second half Tuesday in Willmar. Marshall's Kady Simpson, left, and Willmar's Hannah Smith look on. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Cardinals advanced to the semifinals of the Section 2AAA girls basketball tournament by eclipsing No. 7-seed Marshall 64-51 on Tuesday evening.

The Cardinals (21-3), the No. 2 seed behind Worthington, will meet No. 3 Hutchinson (15-11) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Willmar finished unbeaten on its home court while stretching its winning streak to 12.

But it was a slow start after an 11-day layoff.

The Tigers, who are playing a lot of underclassmen cming off a 20-win season when they won this section, pounced to a 15-8 lead.

"I don't think it was (the layoff) so much as tournament jitters and anxiety that this is section when it's due or die," said head coach Brad Atchison.

Emily Nelsen, senior forward, agreed, to a point: "We were nervous but it was a nervous excitement."

Willmar trailed until the 4:00 minute mark when Jena Thompson got free inside for a basket and a 23-22 lead. The Cardinals' made a 13-2 run to end the half leading 34-24.

An 11-3 streak started the second half to erase any drama. The Tigers scrapped all the way reducing a 20-point deficit with 10:00 left down to 11 points with 3:00 left.

Willmar senior Kelsey Evans carved her way to the iron and soft-touch layups for most of her 19 points. Junior post Jena Thompson followed with 14 points, plus 11 rebounds, three steals, three assists and three blocks.

"I think that was Jena's best game of the year," said Atchison.

Junior guard Kayla Wallerich led the Tigers with 14 points followed by Alyssa Crhistianson with seven and Karli Vanderputte with six.

Also for Willmar, Alex Lippert added 11 points, Hannah Smith 10 poiints and eight rebounds and Mariel Aamot seven points.

Willmar beat Hutchinson 63-60 the third game of the season.

"They're having a nice year playing in a tough conference (Missota)," saidAtchison. "They size inside, a good outside game and athletic forwards."

Willmar 65, Marshall 51

Marshall (4-22) 24 27 -- 51

Willmar (21-3) 34 30 -- 64

MARSHALL - 19-61 FG (5-14 3-pt); 8-15 FT; 25 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Alyhssa Christianson 7, Morgan McKittrick 5, Dani Beekman 4, Karli Vandeputte 6, Alexis Boyd 5, Ashley Schultze 5, Kayla Wallerick 14, Amanda Tate 1, Kelsey Verdoes 4 ... 3-point shots: Christianson 1, McKittrick 1, Vandeputte 2, Wallertich 1 ... Rebound leaders: Christianson 5, Schultze 7 ... Assist leaders: six with one each ... Steal leaders: Beekman 2

WILLMAR - 25-46 FG (3-7 3-pt); 11-17 FT; 31 rebounds; 12 fouls ... Scoring: Kelsey Evans 19, Mariel Aamot 7, Hannah Smith 10, Emily Nelsen 2, Alex Lippert 11, Jena Thompson 15 ... 3-point shots: Evans 2, Mariel Aamot 1 ... Rebound leaders: Thompson 11, Smith 8 ... Assist leaders: Nelsen 3, Thompson 3 ... Steal leaders: Smith 4, Thompson 3 ... Blocks: Thompson 3, Nelsen 3