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Girls basketball: Cardinals move on to semifinals

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Willmar 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Leah Ruter forces a baseline shot through the block of Mankato West’s Sarah Buryska for a basket in the second half in a Section 2AAA quarterfinal-round game on Tuesday in Willmar.

WILLMAR — The Cardinals final home game turned into a game of Monopoly.

They ran the board on visiting Mankato West.

The 52-33 victory Tuesday night propels Willmar (12-14) into the Section 2AAA semifinal round where they meet No. 1 seed New Prague (20-6) at 6 p.m. on the Gus Young court at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

“If we play team defense like we did tonight and that physical and with that much passion, we’ve got a chance,” said Dustin Carlson, the team’s first-year head coach. “We just need to get some shots to fall.”

The Cards outrebounded the Scarlets 45 to 11, according to the home team’s tablet.

Those numbers might not be spot on but they indicate Willmar’s dominance inside.

Forward Kalley Fosso nabbed 10 caroms, center Anne Dunham 9 and wing Heather Horning 8.

Horning was responsible for 5-foot-11 Scarlets’ forward Cara Christiansen, considered their top threat.

“Heather was great at turning (Christiansen) into our help defense,” pointed out Carlson.

Christiansen got only 3 field goals but did finish with a game-high 14 points with 8 free throws. Guard Lexi Schoper added 11 points but no one else scored more than 3.

Willmar got diverse scoring with 5 players scoring from 7 to 13 points.

Megan Rudnick, off the bench, had 9; she was the game’s leading scorer at halftime with 7.

West just couldn’t get going against Willmar’s blue-collar defense. West needed to score 3 points in the last minute just to make the score 17-9 at half.

Willmar also beat West early in the season. The No. 5 seed finishes 7-17.

This was the final career home game for Dunham, Horning and Kassy Linbo, the only seniors on the team. Dunham led Willmar in scoring, Linbo had a couple of steals and Horning added 7 points, 4 steals and 4 assists.  

Willmar had lost 7 of 8 coming in but looked much sharper with its line-up rested and near full strength again, the exception being Jordan Martins who suffered a season-ending ankle injury Jan. 26.

Willmar 52,

Mankato West 33

Mankato West (7-17)    9  24 — 33

Willmar (12-14)    17  35 — 52

MANKATO WEST – 11-46 FG (2-14 3-pt); 9-13 FT; 11 rebounds; 17 fouls … Scoring: Cara Christiansen 14, Corinne Braesicke 3, Lexi Schoper 11, Mackenzie Franke 2, Malorie Veroeven 2, Jenni Larsen 1… 3-point shots: Braesicke, Schoper

WILLMAR – 18-49 FG (3-9 3-pt); 13-20 FT; 45 rebounds; 15 fouls … Scoring: McKenzie Hastad 2, Leah Ruter 7, Megan Rudnick 9, Courtney Magnuson 9, Heather Horning 7, Kalley Fosso 8, Anne Dunham 13 … 3-point shots: Horning 2, Fosso … Rebound leaders: Horning 8, Dunham 9, Fosso 10 … Assist leaders: Horning 4 … Steal leaders: Horning 4, Kassy Linbo 2 …Blocks: Horning 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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