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Boys basketball: Cardinals' difficult start continues

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Willmar’s 6-foot-2 forward Alex Grove can’t reach this offensive rebound gathered by 6-3 New Prague guard Luke Rynda (3) in the second half Saturday in Willmar.

WILLMAR — The highest point output of the new season and a dozen three-point makes weren’t  enough to prevent the Willmar Cardinals from losing 77-64 to New Prague on Saturday evening.

The Trojans moved to 5-1 including a 54-47 win at Alexandria during a two-game swing through western Minnesota.

The Cardinals trailed 44-29 at halftime, unable to defend 5-foot-10 senior guard Nick Johnson, who drained four 3-pointers on the way to scoring 18 of his 19 points in the first 18 minutes.

Willmar trailed by as many at 18 in the second half but got the Trojans’ lead down to nine points with four minutes left on a succession of bonus bombs by Tyler Stegeman (4 treys) Austin Rambow (4) and Cody Magnuson (3).

But New Prague answered with three-pointers of their own while keeping  their distance at the free-throw line (24 of 32 overall).

Austin Rambow had his best game scoring 16 points and holding Division I recruit Paul Friendshuh, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, to 10 points.

But the Trojans just turned to their lanky backcourt of 6-foot-3 guards Luke Rynda and Joe Kneip, who combined for 32 points, plus Johnson’s 19.

Stegeman finished with 12 points and Magnuson 11. Willmar was without Skylar Johnson who is being held out with concussion symptoms.

Willmar (0-4) is off to its slowest start since 1998-99 when the Cardinals started 0-11 and finished 3-20. This year’s team is much too good for a similar nose dive. It’s very capable of a winning season while defending its league title if it can get consistent double-figures  from at least two starters to replace graduated sharpshooter Jimmy Unger.

The team travels to Dassel-Cokato, a new section foe, on Tuesday and at Fergus Falls on Thursday and then prepares for its own holiday tournament Dec. 26-27.

New Prague 77, Willmar 64

New Prague (5-1)    44  33 — 77

Willmar (0-4)    29  33 — 64

NEW PRAGUE – 22 FG (9 3-pt); 24-32 FT; rebounds n/a; 10 fouls … Scoring: Joe Kneip 12, Nick Johnson 19, Luke Rynda 22, Blake Wooten 4, Kyle Stepka 5, Malik Jallah 1, Mike Soderlund 4, Paul Friendshuh 10 … 3-point shots: Johnson 4, Rynda 4, Stepka 1

WILLMAR – 23 FG (12 3-pt); 7-13 FT; 26 rebounds; 22 fouls … Scoring: Joel Carter 6, Jordan Geurtz 8, Sean Zuidema 5, Tyler Stegeman 12, Cody Magnuson 11, Austin Rambow 16, Alex Grove 6… 3-point shots: Carter, Stegeman 4, Magnuson 3, Rambow 3 … Rebound leaders: Rambow 9, Geurtz 6 … Assist leaders: Joe Leuze 4 … Steal leaders: Zuidema 2, Rambow 2

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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