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Alex clips Willmar

Alexandria's Angela Christianson, left, who scored a game-high 29 points, works her way along the free-throw lane while being closely guarded by Willmar's Jena Thompson in the first half Friday night in Willmar. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton1 / 2
Willmar's Hannah Smith stretches to retain control of the ball as she picks up a second-half foul from Alexandria's Angela Christianson (21) Friday in Willmar. At right, Willmar's Jen Knake trails the play. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 2

WILLMAR -- Alexandria got sweet revenge and the upper hand in the Central Lakes girls basketball race Friday night in the most dramatic fashion.

Katie Gearman got open under the basket in the closing seconds and her easy lay-in booted Willmar into second place, 60-59, ending an intense 36 minutes of basketball.

Gearman took a high pass from the top of the key from Cara Wood with four seconds left.

"I thought someone would be on me," said Gearman, a 5-8 guard who scored all six of her points in the second half. "I was screaming for the ball at the top of my lungs. Cara caught my eye; I don't think she could hear me."

Hannah Smith and Mariel Aamot were applying pressure to Wood and Gracie Bruzak out front.

Alexandria had just come out of a timeout with 15 seconds left. It looked like they'd run out of time before even getting off a shot when Bruzak at the wing whipped the ball to Wood, who quickly threw to Gearman.

Jena Thompson, who made one of two free throws with 19 seconds left, and Alex Lippert were out on the wings.

"I looked over and saw (Gearman) and my heart stopped," said Thompson. "Oh, no. It's a tough way to lose; we've worked so hard."

Alexandria (12-1, 15-3) nosed ahead of Willmar (11-2, 16-3) by a game in the CLC race. Both teams have five games left. Willmar beat Alex 74-72 in OT on Jan. 5.

Willmar broke the Alexandria press consistently and outrebounded the visitors 39-29 and might have avoided the late predicament if it wouldn't have faltered badly at the free-throw line.

Willmar sank just 9 of 20 attempts.

"I thought that was the whole key to the game," said Willmar coach Brad Atchison. "You can't fault the kids; they're trying but time after time we couldn't cash in."

Meantime, Alexandria's all-state prospect Angela Christianson made eight of eight free throws in game's last five minutes. The Drake University recruit finished with 29 points, two over her average, despite foul trouble and eventually fouling out in the last minute.

Willmar's offense answer to the 6-foot Alexandria star was Alex Lippert. The tall senior had 14 points by halftime and finished with 22 to go with 19 rebounds and seven blocks.

Thompson followed with 13 points and Smith finished with 10.

Willmar expanded a 33-30 lead at halftime to 46-36 on Smith's three-pointer at 9:18. But Alexandria chewed away at the lead until finally inching in front 54-52 on a basket by Lauren Trumm, who would finish with 13 points.

Lippert's basket tied it up but Alexandria went up 58-54 with two minutes left.

Thompson two free throws and a driving layup by Sara Kalloff tied it again, 58-all with 51 seconds to go. Thompson's free throws gave Willmar the one-point edge that didn't last.

Alexandria 60, Willmar 59

Alexandria (12-1, 15-3) 30 30 -- 60

Willmar (11-2, 16-3) 33 26 -- 59

ALEXANDRIA - 22-67 FG (3-14 3-pt); 13-17 FT; 29 rebounds; 20 fouls ... Scoring: Kate Gearman 6, Alli Haar 2, Angela Christianson 29, Gracie Bruzek 4, Sam Trumm 16, Lauren Trumm 13 ... 3-point shots: Christianson 3 ... Rebound leaders: S. Trumm 9 ... Assist leaders: Bruzek 5... Steal leaders: S. Trumm 2, L. Trumm 2

WILLMAR - 24-53 FG (2-6 3-pt); 9-20 FT; 39 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 6, Hannah Smith 10, Sara Kallhoff 2, Kayli Gimse 4, Jen Knake 2, Alex Lippert 22, Jena Thompson 13 ... 3-point shots: Smith 2... Rebound leaders: Lippert 19, Thompson 8 ... Assist leaders: Knake 4, Gimse 4 ... Steal leaders: Gimse 2 ... Blocks: Lippert 7, Thompson 4

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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