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Boys Basketball: Cards ‘5-peat’ as Bremer champs

Willmar Kyler Johnson looks to drive from the top of the key tightly guarded by Ryan Vraa of New London-Spicer in the first half at the Bremer Bank Classic at Willmar in Thursday’s championship game. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton.

WILLMAR — In a gripping finale, the Willmar Cardinals survived a late charge by the New London-Spicer Wildcats to capture the title of the Bremer Bank Holiday Challenge 69-67 on Thursday night.

The outcome wasn’t clear until the final seconds. The Cats’ Joey Dreier drove the baseline closely guarded by Sean Zuidema. His 12-foot jumper over 6-foot-5 Austin Rambow didn’t drop and Willmar rebounded.

“It was a tough shot,” said Willmar coach Steve Grove. “They had made a heckuva comeback.”

After trailing by two at intermission, Willmar used a 10-point run in the second half building as much as a 13-point lead with under 10 minutes left.

The Wildcats fought back on the scoring of Ryan Vraa, Trent Boie and Tyler Halvorson who salted two of his three bonus shots in the final half.

Boie, on a pass from Dreier who finished with 10 points and 7 assists, scored to made it 66-65, Willmar, with 2:30 left.

Willmar finished 21 of 33 at the free-throw line with some key misses in the clutch. After Cody Magnuson made 1 of 2, Vraa scored at the other end with 20 seconds left and it was 68-67.

NLS forced a Willmar turnover on the inbounds but couldn’t convert the opportunity. Zuidema went to the line and made 1 of 2 for what turned out to be the final margin.

“We had our chances,” said Wildcats’ coach Chad Schmeising. “I was real proud of the way our boys kept battling to the end. What hurt was we couldn’t keep them off the glass and we were outrebounded 2 to 1” (31-16).

Rambow had a big game at both ends. The senior center had 13 of his game-high 17 points in the second half and played strong defense, especially in the second half.

Power forward Alex Grove collected 10 rebounds for the Cardinals. Joe Leuze hit three 3-pointers and had 5 assists. Skylar Johnson, off the bench, swished a pair of 3-pointers in the first 10 minute when the Wildcats were threatening to pull away. And he was 4 of 4 at the line.

NLS (4-5) showed great balance: Boie finished with 14, Halvorson 13, Brett Olson 11, Vraa and Dreier 10 apiece and Aaron Ruter 9.

It was Willmar’s fourth win in a row and fifth straight title in their home invitational.

The four losses by the Wildcats include losses to two No. 1 teams (BBE and Melrose) plus an fine team from Minnehaha Academy.

Willmar 69, NL-Spicer 67

NL-Spicer (4-5)    33  34 — 67

Willmar (4-4)    31  36 — 69

NEW LONDON-SPICER – 27-53 FG (5-14 3-pt); 8-13 FT; 16 rebounds; 22 fouls … Scoring: Ryan Vraa 10, Trent Boie 14, Joey Drier 10, Aaron Ruter 9, Tyler Halvorson 13, Brett Olson 11 … 3-point shots: Vraa, Halvorson 3, Olson 1 … Rebound leaders: Olson 7, Ruter 3 … Assist leaders: Ruter 3, Dreier 7 … Steal leaders: Ruter 3, Dreier 3

WILLMAR – 21-48 FG (6-14 3-pt); 21-33 FT; 31 rebounds; 12 fouls … Scoring: Joe Leuze 12, Jordan Geurtz 8, Sean Zuidema 9, Cody Magnuson 8, Kyler Johnson 12, Austin Rambow 17, Alex Grove 3 … 3-point shots: Leuze 2, Magnuson, Johnson 2 … Rebound leaders: Leuze 4, Geurtz 4, Zuidema 3, Magnuson 3, Rambow 5, Grove 10 … Assist leaders: Leuze 5, Rambow 2, Grove 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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