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Boys Basketball: Cards rip Benson in rematch of ‘11 title game

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Willmar 6-foot-5 sophomore Austin Grove draws a non-shooting foul by 5-foot-10 Benson guard Daniel Lee in the first half. Looking on from left, are Willmar’s Sean Zuidema (15), Benson’s Matt Ahrndt (23), Willmar’s Alex Grove, Benson’s Zach Jensen and Hayden Lee and Willmar’s Austin Rambow (41).

WILLMAR — Austin Rambow hooped 16 points and Kyler Johnson returned from a three-game layoff to score 14 points as the Willmar Cardinals turned back the Benson Braves 71-51 on Wednesday evening on the first day of the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic.

The Cardinals (3-4) will play neighboring New London-Spicer at approximately 7:45 p.m. for the championship.

The host team has won its own classic final the past four years, including Benson last December and NLS 61-60 two years ago.

The Wildcats won in 2007 on the way to capturing the 2008 Class AA championship.

This year again, the 3A Cardinals, should be favored in a field of AA teams. All four teams came in with sub-five-hundred records.

Benson was overmatched against Willmar’s height, bulk and depth.

Willmar jumped out 17-5 and never was in trouble.  Coach Steve Grove went 10-deep the first half. Tall forward/post types Adam Nibaur and Austin Grove, the coach’s youngest of two sons on the team, got into the rotation early for once and together totaled 9 points and 9 rebounds.

Starters Joe Leuze and Jordan Geurtz each finished with 10 points.

Rambow hit 7 of 11 shots from the floor. The 6-5 senior forward scored his team’s first six points.

Johnson, who has been out since suffering concussion symptoms on Dec. 11 vs. Apollo, showed no rust. The lanky 6-foot-4 guard used a smooth stroke to deposit four 3-pointers in eight transactions.

The Braves (1-5), rebuilding after heavy graduation losses including top scorer Sam Peterson (now at Gustavus), had their best success shooting the bonus.

Daniel Lee sank 4 of 6 tries from outside the arc and Matt Ahrndt 3 of 12 to finish with 11 and 15 points, respectively.

Benson meets Albany at 6 p.m. today. The Huskies, formerly of the West Central North, now play in the newly formed Granite Ridge Conference.

The first-night crowd was modest in size, perhaps 500, compared to seasons when Willmar and NLS came in with dazzling early-season records.

Coach Grove said the Wildcats’ quick, athletic guards Aaron Ruter and Joey Dreier are a concern.

He was also impressed with the play of forward Brett Olson and 6-foot-5 center Tyson Gislason.

Willmar 71, Benson 51

Benson (1-5)    22  29 — 51

Willmar (3-4)     34  37 — 71

BENSON – 19-51 FG (8-18 3-pt); 5-8 FT; 20 rebounds; 11 fouls … Scoring: Daniel Lee 11, Zach Maurer 4, Aaron Ahrndt 3, Matt Ahrndt 15, Tyler Krienke 2, Christian Larson 3, Zach Jensen 5, Jacob Goff 8 … 3-point shots: Lee 3, A. Ahrndt, M. Ahrndt 3, Larson … Rebound leaders: M. Ahrndt 4, Good 3 … Assist leaders: A. Ahrndt 2, M. Ahrndt 2 … Steal leaders: Lee 2

WILLMAR – 26-60 FG (5-19 3-pt); 14-19 FT; 31 rebounds; 14 fouls … Scoring: Joe Leuze 10, Jordan Geurtz 10, Dylan Schueler 2, Cody Magnuson 3, Kyler Johnson 14, Austin Rambow 16, Adam Nibaur 4, Alex Grove 7, Austin Grove 5 … 3-point shots: Magnuson, Johnson 4 … Rebound leaders: Geurtz 4, Schueler 3, Johnson 4, A. Rambow 4, Nibaur 54, Al. Grove 5, Au. Grove 4 … Assist leaders: Magnuson 4, Al. Grove 6 … Steal leaders: Leuze 3, Magnuson 3, Rambowe 3

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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