Girls Basketball: Cardinals hit a bump in the road
WILLMAR — Just when it appeared that the Willmar Cardinals would enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the state, they hit a road bump in the form of Sartell.
The Cardinals saw an eight-game win streak fall by the wayside on Thursday night in a 36-34 loss to the Sabres in the regular-season Central Lakes Conference finale.
The loss came two nights after an impressive 40-33 win at second-ranked Alexandria on Tuesday.
A late second-half push from the visiting Sabres staked them out to a 33-28 lead, and the Cardinals' comeback attempt came up short as Hannah Johnson couldn't connect on a jumper with four seconds to play.
It was a night full of offensive struggles that led to Willmar's reversal of fortune just 48 hours after its biggest win of the season, and one that springboarded the team's chances at earning the top seed in Section 5AAA play starting next week.
The Cardinals shot 33 percent from the field and had 20 turnovers.
The sky, though, has far from fallen for the Cardinals, who have shown their mettle and a proclivity to bounce back throughout the season.
Willmar led 18-15 at halftime behind five points from Johnson. Heidi Sellmann then came out and scored the first four points of the second half to put the Cardinals out to a 22-15 lead.
The Sabres launched their comeback from there. Alexis Winter hit a 3-pointer with 6:51 remaining to tie the game at 28-28—the first time the game was knotted since the score was 4-4.
Over a minute later, a layup gave Sartell only its second lead of the game. Another triple with 4:25 put the Cardinals in a 33-28 hole.
Willmar's defense buckled down from that point on and the offense broke through with a Sellmann basket and a Carly Wedel layup with 52 seconds left to draw within 33-32.
The back-breaker for the Cardinals came in the form of a three-point possession for the Sabres following Wedel's basket. An offensive rebound on the back end of a one-and-one led to two more made free throws that made the score 36-32. Sellmann scored on the other end to draw Willmar within two points and Sartell missed the front end of the bonus free throw, but the Cardinals couldn't get the game-winning shot to fall.
Sellmann scored a team-best 10 points for Willmar and grabbed five rebounds.
Next up for the Cardinals is Section play, where they will try to regain the form that sparked the eight-game win streak. The 5AAA bracket is set to come out over the weekend.
Sartell 36, Willmar 34
Sartell (16-10) 15 21 — 36
Willmar (17-9) 18 16 — 34
SARTELL - Scoring: Addison DeMaine 3, Emily Driste 3, Madalyn Schnettler 4, Hannah Bergner 1, Courtney Deters 2, Jaylia Ellis 2, Alexis Winter 10, Emma Larson 2, Megan Sieben 7, Meleah Gunderson 2 ... 3-point shots: DeMaine 1, Driste 1, Winter 2
WILLMAR - Scoring: Abby Berskow 2, Grace Sawyer 2, Kayla Rudie 2, Jordyn Swoboda 4, Hannah Johnson 6, Cayle Hovland 2, Carly Wedel 6, Heidi Sellmann 10 ... 3-point shots: Johnson 1 ... Rebound leader: Hovland 6, Sellmann 5 ... Assist leader: Johnson 4 ... Steal leader: Hovland 3