Cards one and done
MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be no TV for the Willmar Cardinals today.
Benilde-St. Margaret's saw to that by shutting down Willmar in the second half for a 53-39 win in the Class AAA girls quarterfinals at Williams Arena.
Television coverage starts today with the semifinals. Wednesday's losers are one and done.
"It's frustrating," said Willmar's Hannah Smith. "We were up by five at halftime and they went on a (7-0) run. We just weren't as aggressive to open the second half."
The Cardinals shot poorly the whole game, but especially the second half when they combined for just four field goals in 25 attempts (16 percent). The Red Knights made 10-of-21 shots out of the break (48 percent).
Olivia Antilla, who led the Knights with 14 points, opened the second half with a three-pointer to cut Willmar's lead to 26-24. A Josie Dillon layup tied it at 26-26 before a minute was gone. Antilla hit a jumper at 15:23 to push the No. 2 seed into the lead, 28-26.
"We just picked it up and started playing more aggressive the second half," said Antilla, a sophomore forward. "We knew they were a good team and they gave us a struggle."
The momentum had clearly switched, but Willmar hung on for a while. Jena Thompson sank a pair of free throws and then Smith drove for two points and a 32-31 lead, but it would be Willmar's last at 10:35 of the second half.
It was still close with just over three minutes left after Smith potted a triple from the wing to make it 41-37, Benilde. But Mariel Aamot's two free throws were all the Cardinals mustered the last three minutes while the Knights pulled away.
"They kind of beat us at our own game," summarized Willmar coach Brad Atchison. "We felt good about what we had established in the first half and we wanted to come out and improve on that. But they hit a three and then a two and pretty soon they were two possessions up on us."
Willmar jumped up 4-0 on two free throws and a basket by 6-foot-4 post Alex Lippert, but the senior lacked her usual shooting touch and registered only one more field goal. Still, Willmar led most of the half. Benilde went up 17-13 at 6:54, but the unseeded Cardinals looked ready to pull an upset by outscoring the favorites 13-4 to halftime. The rally was partly fueled by two free shots by Lippert, a three-pointer by forward Jen Knake, and a jumper by Jena Thompson for a 26-19 lead with a minute left.
But in the second half, the Red Knights looked faster on their feet and consistently broke through the Willmar interior defense for layups or second-chances.
Unlike the section championship win a week ago over Worthington when they got 27 points off the bench, the Cardinals got just three from the second wave.
"That was big, very big," reflected Atchison. "It would have been nice to get to Thursday and the TV game."
"Though it's disappointing," said Smith, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 13 rebounds, "I'm proud we got here. It was so much fun to play on this floor. We were down here a couple of years ago for a camp and I'm glad all the girls had the chance today."
Willmar was held to its lowest scoring output of the season as the Cardinals averaged just over 60 points a game for the entire season.
The Red Knights (28-2) play Sartell (24-5), which surprised No. 3 seed Bemidji in the final AAA quarterfinal game of the day in the semifinals. Otherwise, the rest of the seeded teams, each private schools from the metro, won on the first day.
Benilde-SM 53, Willmar 39
Willmar (23-5) 26 13 -- 39
Benilde-SM (28-2) 21 32 -- 53
WILLMAR - 13-56 FG (4-12 3-pt); 9-13 FT; 42 rebounds; 19 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 0-7 3-4 3, Hannah Smith 7-25 0-1 17, Jen Knake 1-3 0-2 3, Alex Lippert 2-9 4-4 8, Jena Thompson 3-6 2-2 8, Sara Kallhoff 0-2 0-0 0, Carrie Boike 0-0 0-0 0, Kayli Gimse 0-4 0-0 0 ... 3-point shots: Aamot 0-2, Smith 3-8, Knake 1-1, Kallhoff 0-1 ... Rebound leaders: Smith 13, Lippert 6, Aamot 5, Thompson 5 ... Assist leaders: Aamot 3 ... Steal leaders: Smith 2, Thompson 2 ... Blocks: Lippert 4
BENILDE-ST. MARGARET'S - 18-46 FG (2-10 3-pt); 15-23 FT; 37 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Itisha Alexander 2-4 2-2 6, Josie Dillon 5-12 0-1 11, Lindsay Kaminski 2-5 1-5 5, Olivia Antilla 4-12 5-6 14. Khadijah Shumpert 3-8 5-5 11, Laura Kosch 2-2 2-2 6, Sidney Pilarski 0-2 0-2 0, Sarah Kopp 0-1 0-0 0 ... 3-point shots: Alexander 0-1, Dillon 1-4, Antilla 1-5 ... Rebound leaders: Antilla 9, Kaminski 8, Shumpert 8, Dillon 5 ... Assist leaders: Alexander 3 ... Steal leaders: Dillon 3, Kaminski 3