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Willmar tops Hastings in season debut

Willmar's Taylor Filipek drives for two closely guarded by Hastings' Shane Monjeau in the first half at Willmar on Friday in the season opener. Tribune photos by Rand Middleton1 / 3
Willmar sophomore Jimmy Unger shoots and scores from the baseline against Hastings during the first half Friday at Willmar on the way to scoring 18 points in his first varsity game. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 3
Willmar's Sam Esboldt fires in a long two-pointer to tie the score 61-61 with under three minutes remaining in the game. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton3 / 3

WILLMAR -- Talk about a new model year.

Coach Steve Grove rolled out the 2009-10 edition of the Willmar Cardinals and you would hardly recognize it.

Taylor Filipek was the only face instantly recognizable. The third-year starter was in high gear too, driving to the iron repeatedly on his way to 26 points to lead the Cardinals to a 69-65 win over the Hasting Raiders on Friday night.

Filipek, who made 13-of-15 free throws, was the lone Cardinal on the floor last night with an extensive varsity résumé. But he got plenty of support from the newcomers.

Senior Sam Esboldt, a varsity reserve last year with limited playing time, drilled four 3-pointers to finish with 14 points.

But it was sophomore Jimmy Unger, who played B-squad as a freshman, who was the biggest surprise.

The 6-2 wing made 6-of-10 shots to finish with 18 points.

"He's a good kid," said Grove. "It's so interesting to see who steps forward that first game."

Willmar led the entire way, including 37-27 at half, until the Raiders charged back and briefly led 59-57.

Jake Damhof tied it with a 14-foot jumper at 59-all at 3:00 minutes. Esboldt hit from the corner for a 61-59 lead. After Hastings tied it, Filipek and Unger each went 4-for-4 at line down the stretch to ice the win.

Willmar couldn't contain Raider senior forwards 6-3 Nick Gmiterko and 6-5 Shane Monjeau who combined for 47 points.

What stood out for Willmar was the composure of the young players who were for the most part solid with the ball.

"That was a lot better than we played in any of our scrimmages," said senior guard Mark Dunham. "We've got to pick up on the defense though."

Willmar 69, Hastings 65

Hastings 37 32 -- 69

Willmar 27 38 -- 65

HASTINGS - 27-49 FG (4-15 3-pt); 7-8 FT; 19 rebounds; 19 fouls ... Scoring: Dan Guelle 3, Mike Hill 6, Ellis Williams 9, Nick Gmiterko 24, Shane Monjeau 23 ... 3-point shots: Williams 3, Gmiterko 1 ... Rebound leaders: Gmiterko 5, Monjeau 9 ... Assist leaders: Mike Hill 4 ... Steal leaders: Gmiterko 4 ... Blocked shots: Gmiterko 4

WILLMAR - 22-41 FG (8-193-pt); 17-20 FT; 30 rebounds; 12 fouls ... Scoring: Mark Dunham 3, Jimmy Unger 18, Jake Rambow 2, Sam Esboldt 14, Sam Spaulding 2, Taylor Filipek 26, Jake Damhof 4 ... 3-point shots: Dunham 1, Unger 2, Esboldt 4, Filipek 1 ... Rebound leaders: Unger 5, Spaulding 3, Filipek 13, Damhof 4 ... Assist leaders: Dunham 2, Unger 2, Andrew Bangen 3, Esboldt 3, Filipek 2 ... Steal leaders: three with 1 ... Blocked shots: Filipek 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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