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Girls Basketball: Cardinals take down Tigers for sixth straight win

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Curt Hogg / Tribune Cayle Hovland, Willmar, passes to a teammate on the fast break during the first half on Thursday night against Marshall. 2 / 3
Curt Hogg / Tribune Willmar's Jordyn Swoboda looks for an open teammate along the baseline against Marshall during the first half on Thursday night. 3 / 3

WILLMAR — A hot start put the Willmar girls basketball team out to a commodious early lead and the shots kept falling from there as the Cardinals extended their winning streak to six games with a 59-46 win over Marshall at Willmar Senior High School on Thursday night.

It was a true, and typical, team effort from the Cardinals. Eight different players scored at least five points, with Jordyn Swoboda leading the way with 12 points while Heidi Sellmann scored 10 points and added a team-high seven rebounds.

"Big win tonight over a really scrappy Marshall team," Willmar head coach Dustin Carlson said. "We started out rolling once again, but had a little low after the first five minutes. We had balanced scoring once again tonight, which was key."

The Cardinals shot 57.5 percent (23-for-40) from the field, and an even more impressive 71.4 percent (20-for-28) on two-point shots.

While it was an uncharacteristic night for Willmar in allowing 47.4 percent (18-for-38) shooting by the Tigers, the Cardinals forced 14 turnovers and only allowed nine free throw attempts to keep Marshall out of arm's reach for almost the entire night.

Sellmann was adroit in the paint early while also stretching the defense by burying a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The senior scored nine of her 10 points as the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 15-6 lead. Abby Berskow added a three and Carly Wedel, who had eight points, added a basket to stake Willmar out to its largest lead of the game at 20-6.

The pace slowed down over the rest of the half and the Cardinals led 34-25 going into halftime.

Marshall wouldn't simply go away in the second half, but the Cardinals turned up the defensive pressure themselves to pull away for the non-conference win.

"The best part about tonight was how we finished," Carlson said. "The last four-to-five minutes we cranked up the defensive pressure and ran the transition game really well. It was fun to watch the girls excel down the stretch."

As the Cardinals offense has found its groove down the final stretch of the season, the stalwart defense has not missed a beat.

Over the six game winning streak, Willmar has only allowed 41.2 points per game. In all but two of the Cardinals' 15 wins this season, they have held the opponent under 50 points.

Willmar will have a short turnaround before playing Sauk Rapids-Rice in a Central Lakes Conference game at 7:30 p.m. today.

Willmar 59, Marshall 46

Marshall (12-12) 25 21 — 46

Willmar (15-8) 34 25 — 59

MARSHALL - Scoring: Maddie Marks 14, Kaia Sueker 2, Erica Jones 3, Lenei Estrada 7, Natalie Petrich 14, Hannah Meier 2, Paige Andries 4 ... 3-point shots: Marks 2, Jones 1, Estrada 1, Petrich 2

WILLMAR - Scoring: Abby Berskow 5, Grace Sawyer 5, Kayla Rudie 5, Jordyn Swoboda 12, Hannah Johnson 8, Cayle Hovland 6, Carly Wedel 8, Heidi Sellmann 10 ... 3-point shots: Breskow 1, Rudie 1, Sellmann 1 ... Rebound leader: Sellmann 7 ... Assist leader: Rudie 3, Johnson 3 ... Steal leader: Berskow 2, Sawyer 2, Swoboda 2

Curt Hogg

Curt Hogg is a sports reporter at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016.