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Willmar girls suffer first loss of season

Willmar's Kayli Gimse, left, grabs an offensive rebound before Bemidji's Kayla Hirt (20) in the first half at Willmar Saturday. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

WILLMAR - Two teams put on a show to justify their lofty rankings on Saturday afternoon at the high school.

In a mild upset, Bemidji (9-1), ranked No. 6 in Class AAA, handed No. 4 Willmar its first loss 70-64 in non-conference girls basketball.

The game was tied seven times, the last at 57-57. The final six-point gap reflected four Lumberjack free throws as Willmar was forced to foul.

"I think that's the best we've played," said Bemidji junior forward Kayla Hirt, who scored 24 points, including a pair of three-pointers at crunch time. "We played Eden Prairie the same way but lost that game."

Willmar's Kayli Gimse had a career-high 23 points and nabbed 10 rebounds. The 5-10 junior has been in double figures each of the past five games.

Willmar trailed 40-38 after a brisk first half. A basket by Alex Lippert and a free throw by Gimse forged a 56-52 Willmar lead at 6:00.

Willmar's last lead was 60-59 on a pair of free throws by Mariel Aamot at 5:03. Thee-pointers by Hirt, Erika Weimann and Hirt, again, offset a trey by Gimse as the visitors moved in front.

Willmar head coach Brad Atchison prepared for Hirt, who has already verbally committed to the Gophers.

"She is such a good player," he said. "We tried a box and one, but she's hard to keep track of because she can post up or play outside."

Willmar (10-1) got 12 points from Jena Thompson, eight from Hannah Smith, plus four steals and five assists, and seven points and five assists from Aamot. Lippert and Thompson combined for seven blocks.

"A loss like this doesn't hurt us," said Atchison. "It's great competition."

Bemidji 70, Willmar 64

Bemidji (9-1) 40 30 -- 70

Willmar(10-1) 38 26 -- 64

BEMIDJI - 25 FG (5 3-pt); 15-21 FT; rebounds, not available; 16 fouls ... Scoring: Kenzie Kane 11, Wrika Weimann 12, Kayla Hirt 254, Jess Yost 11, Abby Hendricks 2, Selina Gilbertson 1, Kelsey Heisler 5, Caitlin Gangelhoff ... 3-point shots: Hirt 2, Weimann 2, Kane 1 ... Rebound leaders, Assist, Steal leaders: not available

WILLMAR - 21-61 FG (3-9 3-pt); 19-25 FT; 31 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 7, Hannah Smith 8, Sara Kallhoff 3, Carrie Boike 2, Kayli Gimse 23, Jen Knake 3, Alex Lippert 6, Jena Thompson 12 ... 3-point shots: Smith 1, Gimse 1, Knake 1 ... Rebound leaders: Lippert 7, Gimse 10, Knake 3, Aamot 3, Smith 3 ... Assist leaders: Aamot 5, Smith 5 ... Steal leaders: Smith 4, Kallhoff 2 ... Blocks: Lippert 4, Thompson 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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