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Girls basketball: Otters too slippery for Cardinals

(Tribune photo by Brooke Kern) Willmar junior center Caroline Bell, right, drives to the hoop against Fergus Falls center Kristin Traiser Saturday at Willmar.

WILLMAR — Fergus Falls showed No. 1 form (and then some), dishing out a 74-45 Central Lakes Conference loss to the Willmar Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.

The Otters (11-0, 16-0) shot 46 percent overall, 88 percent on three-pointers and 87 percent at the free throw line.

On top of that their height advantage made it tough for Willmar to get much done near the rim; when they did get to the sweet spot the layup often failed to fall or got snuffed by either 6-foot-1 Anna Monke or 6-2 Hanna Swenson.

The Cardinals shot 40 percent from the field and 54 percent from the free throw stripe.

“They are a much tougher team than we saw up in Fergus,” said Willmar coach Dustin Carlson. “I thought their defense was much improved. It’s tough to stop that kind of inside-out presence by Monke, Swenson, and then (Bailey) Strand and (Bri) Rassmuson.”

The Cardinals showed no quit but the Otters didn’t relax on defense either, prying the ball free 16 times while committing only 7 miscues themselves. And here’s the kicker: 5-foot-10 junior guard Bailey Strand, the coach’s daughter, sank six of seven 3-point shots on the way to scoring a game-high 25 points for Fergus.

Anne Dunham, Willmar’s senior forward, played impressively against the multi-talented Fergus lineup. She finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

“We were grinding it out in the second half a little better,” said Carlson. “When you play a top team like that you have to hit on all cylinders and get a lucky bounce or two. It seemed like they were getting everything to go instead of us.”

The Otters are well on their way to a third straight CLC title after going 17-1 two years ago and 16-0 a year ago, when they finished third in Class AAA.

Courtney Magnuson finished with 10 points and Kalley Fosso and Heather Horning 7 each. Point guard Jordan Martins, who only recently returned from illness, left the court with assistance in the second half after twisting her right ankle in front of the Willmar bench trying to escape a trap.

Swenson, who did not play in the first meeting at Fergus that ended 71-49, scored 16 points while Monk, a two-time all-CLC selection, had 8 points.

Rasmussen (9 points), a six-foot guard, hit from midcourt on the run as the first half ended 38-18.

Top-ranked (AAA) Fergus, which plays No. 8 (AA) Staples-Motley next, is in the first year under Brad Strand, who came from nearby Pelican Rapids after 16 seasons which included the AA boys championship in 2009.

Willmar went a 4-2 in this six-game home stand with both losses to top 10 AAA squads (Mankato East is the other) and will play at Sauk Rapids on Tuesday.

Fergus Falls 74,       Willmar 45

Fergus Falls (11-0, 16-0)    38  36 — 74

Willmar (7-4, 10-8)    18  27 — 45

FERGUS FALLS – 27-59 FG (7-8 3-pt); 13-15 FT; 25 rebounds; 17 fouls … Scoring: Devonie Smith 6, Kristin Traiser 3, Bri Rasmussen 9, Bailey Strand 25, Kathryn Sawtell 2, Hanna Swenson 16, Anna Monke 8, Sam Velde 3, Kaitlin Capouch 2 … 3-point shots: Strand 6-8, Rasmussen 1-1

WILLMAR – 17-43 FG (3-8 3-pt); 7-13 FT; 32 rebounds; 9 fouls … Scoring: Courtney Magnuson 10, Megan Rudnick 2, McKenzie Hastad 2, Heather Horning 7, Anne Dunham 16, Kalley Fosso 7… 3-point shots: Fosso 1, Dunham 2-2 … Rebound leaders: Dunham 10, Horning 5, Jordan Martins 4 … Steal leaders: Magnuson 2, Megan Rudnick 2, Fosso 2 … Blocks: Dunham 4

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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