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Boys basketball: Templin, Rocori sink Cardinals

COLD SPRING — Other than the final score, the entertainment was worth the trip for Willmar fans who headed out on a frostbitten Thursday night.

The wind chill beyond the Rocori gym streamed arctic-like but inside the heat was on.

Willmar came from 16 down the first half to lead by 7 in the second, 63-58.

Rocori roared back. The Cardinals led 77-74 when 6-foot-2 senior Zach Templin hit a three-pointer to tie it with 1:10 left.

After Willmar’ Kyler Johnson, who had a hot-hand in the second half, missed from the lane Rocori worked for the last shot: Templin again. Bang! Another 3-pointer, this time with :03 showing for the 80-77 victory sealed when Willmar’s desperation buzzer-beater failed.

The Cards had outscored the Spartans 42-35 the second half after trailing by 10, 45-35 at halftime.

“I was happy with our effort in the second half,” said Willmar coach Steve Grove. “Jordan Geurtz contested the last shot which is all you can do, so we say we’ll live with it if they make it.”

Templin, on the left wing, had got the pass from Jonah Eisenschenk who was at the elbow. The 6-foot-5, UM-Duluth-bound third-year starter, finished with 34 points and four of his team’s 9 three-pointers.

Austin Rambow scored 21 for Willmar, Joe Leuze 18, Kyler Johnson 11, Cody Magnuson 9 and alternating power forwards Alex Grove and Geurtz 8 apiece.

Willmar sank 11 of 27 (41 percent) on threes and Rocori 9 of 16 (56 percent).

Rocori got all its points from five players: Besides Eisenchenk’s 34, Mac Mueller hit for 13, Brad Fabel 14, Templin 11 and Nick Thorpe 8.

The Cards trailed 35-14 when they took a time out and applied the press. Rambow and Leuze forced instant turnovers for points and the visitors began the climb back. Johnson’s triple tied the score 53-all and Leuze’s trey that followed gave Willmar its first lead, 56-53, with 9 minutes left.

Some of these same Willmar athletes will recall another final-seconds loss this school year in Cold Spring, on the football field. A north wind also raged that night.

Rocori took the first basketball meeting in another thriller, 63-62 on Dec. 12 in Willmar.

Willmar will play host to Montevideo, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.

Rocori 80, Willmar 77

Willmar (4-6 8-9)    35  42 — 77

Rocori (5-4 8-7)    45  35 — 80

WILLMAR –28 66 FG (11-27 3-pt); 10-15 FT; 24 rebounds; 14 fouls … Scoring: Joe Leuze 18, Austin Rambow 21, Kyler Johnson 11, Cody Magnuson 9, Alex Grove 8, Jordan Geurtz 8, Sean Zuidema 2 … 3-point shots: Johnson 3, Magnuson 3, Leuze 3, Rambow 2 … Rebound leaders: Geurtz 8 … Assist leaders: Leuze 4 … Steal leaders: Leuze 7

ROCORI – 31-50 FG (9-16 3-pt); 9-15  FT; 20 rebounds; 16 fouls … Scoring: Mac Mueller 13, Brad Fabel 14, Zach Templin 11, Jonah Eisenschenk 34, Nick Thorpe 8  … 3-point shots: Fabel 3, Templin 2, Eisenchenk 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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