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Boys Basketball: Unger 3-pointer leads Willmar over Bemidji

Willmar's Jimmy Unger, right, looks to pass while being defended by Bemidji's Carey Woods, left, during a non-conference game Saturday in Willmar. Unger and Woods led their teams with 30 points and 22 points, respectively. Tribune photo by Tom Larson.

By Tom Larson

WILLMAR -- One clutch basketball player makes a game-winning shot in overtime while another has his potential game-winner dance on the rim and bounce out.

That's how simple an often complex game boils down sometimes.

Willmar's Jimmy Unger hit a go-ahead 3-point shot from the top of the key with 35 seconds left in overtime, and Bemidji's Carey Woods' short runner with 18 seconds left to regain the lead was in the basket, then out, and Willmar hung on for a 71-68 non-conference victory Saturday at Willmar High School.

Unger rebounded Woods' miss, and Austin Rambow nailed two free throws with 10 seconds remaining for some insurance.

Willmar's Dean Stier hit two free throws with about two minutes left in regulation to tie the game at 68-all after the Lumberjacks had battled back from a 12-point second-half deficit.

"I had a quick look," said Unger, who finished with 30 points, of the 3-pointer that put Willmar ahead 69-68.

"I was coming off a screen and took a hand-off (from Stier)," he said. "I felt it. It felt good."

Conversely, Woods said the same thing about his potential go-ahead shot.

"I thought it was down," said Woods, shaking his head slightly. "I had a good look it, it was a good shot, it just rolled out."

Bemidji head coach Jeff Brown was a believer, too.

"We did a nice job coming back, and I really thought Woods' layup was going to go down," Brown said. "That's the way it goes sometimes, but you can't fault the effort of the kids. They played hard."

Willmar improved to 15-6 and avoided being the only Central Lakes Conference team to lose to the Lumberjacks this season. Bemidji has played five games against CLC teams and lost them all.

The Lumberjacks fell to 11-11 overall and they have lost four games in a row and five of their last six.

At times, the Lumberjacks played like a .500 team, but at others they rolled right with the Cardinals, who are leading the tough CLC with a 10-2 record.

Willmar was able to take a double-digit lead in the first half and went into the break up by seven points.

The Cards upped the lead to a dozen points in the second half before the Lumberjacks recharged.

"They were able to get back into the game because we got a little sloppy with how we were playing," Unger said. "We missed some shots, we had turnovers and I think we lost our confidence."

"The kids stopped doing what they did in the first half," said Willmar head coach Steve Grove. "We were not aggressive, we were standing around, and we let them take the game to us."

Woods scored nine of his team-high 22 points in the second half and J.C. Cervenka hitting three 3-pointers and netting 11 of his 15 points after the break.

Bemidji took the lead 66-64 on a Cody Rutledge dunk, but Dean Stier hit the two foul shots to tie it. Bemidji worked off most of that time and Woods missed a jump shot at the buzzer.

In overtime, Bemidji's Connor Sullivan hit a short bank shot and Rambow hit two free throws to make it 68-all.

Rambow played a solid game, with 11 rebounds and 5 assists to go with his 17 points, which include the two big insurance foul shots in overtime.

The Lumberjacks missed three free throws in overtime, and Unger drilled the final three of his 30 points from the top of the key.

"Once they got the lead, we got stops when we needed them," Grove said. "That was just Jimmy playing basketball at the end. (It wasn't a called play), it was about ability; his leaping ability and his shooting ability."

Willmar 71,

Bemidji 68 OT

Bemidji (11-11) 30 36 2 -- 68

Willmar (15-6) 37 29 5 -- 71

BEMIDJI - 29-57 FG (8-19 3-pt); 2-6 FT; 25 rebounds; 16 fouls ... Scoring: Devaugn Rainey 2, Cody Rutledge 11, Mitch Brown 1, Carey Woods 22, Richard Seado 5, J.C. Cervenka 15, Connor Sullivan 10, Zach Declusin 2 ... 3-point shots: Woods 4, Cervenka 3, Seado 1 ... Rebound leaders: NA ... Assist leaders: NA ... Steal leaders: NA

WILLMAR - 27-62 FG (10-23 3-pt); 7-9 FT; 31 rebounds; 11 fouls ... Scoring: Dean Stier 5, Joe Leuze 7, Jimmy Unger 30, Matt Suedbeck 3, Mo Mohamud 6, Austin Rambow 17, Alex Grove 3 ... 3-point shots: Unger 4, Mohamud 2, Suedbeck 1, Leuze 1, Stier 1, Grove 1 ... Rebound leaders: Unger 11, Rambow 11 ... Assist leaders: Jeremy Olson 5, Rambow 5 ... Steal leaders: Mohamud 5