Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children.
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ST. CLOUD -- In the New London-Spicer huddle with 2.8 seconds left in overtime, junior Jayme Moten wanted the ball. "He said 'Get me the ball, I can make this," recalled Erik Tengwall in the delirious aftermath of the Wildcats' 71-68 victory over Staples-Motley on Friday. Aaron Jenny inbounded the ball to Tengwall, who passed to Moten at the far end of the court. Moten flew past the Cardinals' bench and over the time line.
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was an historic day for the communities of Buffalo Lake and Hector, which sent its first team ever to a state basketball tournament. "They'll always have that," said Mustangs head coach Josh Tjosaas. "When they go back to the school (after they graduate), they'll always be able to see what they've done." The Mustangs fell to Goodhue Thursday afternoon in the girls Class A quarterfinals 54-46 to eliminate them from the tournament field. "I wish they had a consolation round," said Tjosaas.
MANKATO -- OK, so Hutchinson can play basketball, too. The Tigers proved it's not just a football school on Thursday night as they leveled Willmar 77-59 in the Section 2AAA championship game at Taylor Center. The No. 1 seed played a dominating first half to pile up an 18-point lead, 39-21. The Cardinals, the No. 2 seed in the section, recuperated in the halftime locker room, but it was too late.
MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be no TV for the Willmar Cardinals today. Benilde-St. Margaret's saw to that by shutting down Willmar in the second half for a 53-39 win in the Class AAA girls quarterfinals at Williams Arena. Television coverage starts today with the semifinals. Wednesday's losers are one and done. "It's frustrating," said Willmar's Hannah Smith. "We were up by five at halftime and they went on a (7-0) run.
COLLEGEVILLE -- Poor Albany. What heights would the Huskies have reached without New London-Spicer High School in their section? The Wildcats delivered the latest blow -- this one an 87-62 knockout -- Tuesday night at Sexton Arena in a meeting for the Section 6AA-East boys basketball title. Behind 23 points from Jayme Moten, who canned all six three-pointers he attempted, plus 21 points and 16 rebounds by Aaron Johnson, the Wildcats rolled into Friday's section final against Staples-Motley at Halenbeck Hall. The Huskies finished 23-3 with all three losses to NLS.
Willmar met Hutchinson in the section football semifinals last Halloween. The Tigers hung a 30-point loss on the Cardinals. The outfits have changed for the section basketball final, but many of the names are the same for Thursday's Section 2AAA title game at Bresnan Arena. Over the seasons the hardcourt has been Willmar's realm, while Hutchinson has dominated the turf meetings. But this winter, Hutchinson has, unexpectedly, emerged as the team to beat. A year ago, the Tigers finished 6-20, losing 15 of their last 16, including an 87-80 loss at Willmar in the first round of the playoffs.
WILLMAR -- In the old days, Sam Esboldt's clutch basket might have met a ride on the shoulders of his happy schoolmates, who charged the court after Willmar's 43-42 victory over Mankato West in front of just over 1,000 fans. Saturday night, he got cyberspace equivalent. "Look at this," said the senior forward to teammate Andrew Bangen in the Cardinals' locker room not long after his awkward 12-foot jump shot buried the Scarlets' upset hopes. He was counting new messages on his cell phone. "Fourteen (texts)," he said with a laugh. "I got three," murmured Bangen as they exited. In a heart-
WILLMAR - The Willmar Cardinals are in the 2AAA championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mankato against Hutchinson - barely. A jump shot by a well-guarded Sam Esboldt overcame the Scarlets 43-42 on Saturday evening before the largest crowd of the year in the Willmar gym. Willmar had squandered a 12-point lead with just under nine minutes left to fall behind the No. 3 seed 42-39 with under two minutes left. Esboldt scored after losing the ball and regaining possession on a save by Sam Spaulding. His game-winner from about 16 feet came with seconds left.
MANKATO - The third try was magic for the Willmar Cardinals. "This feels so good," said Jena Thompson on the floor of Bresnan Arena. "Finally, we're going." The Cardinals validated their No. 1 seed Thursday night on the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus with rollicking 77-68 win over No. 2- seed Worthington in the Section 2AAA girls basketball final. "We had so much energy tonight," said Thompson, a third-year starter whose season was ended on this same floor each of the past two campaigns by the Trojans. This time Willmar would not be denied.
Worthington has stopped the Willmar girls post-season drive to state each of the last two years. A year ago the Trojans crushed the Cardinals 54-31 in the 2AAA championship game at Mankato. Two years ago, it was 73-55 in the semifinals (Marshall toppled the Trojans in the 2008 section final). Today's 7 p.m. meeting at Bresnan Arena should be closer. The Cardinals (22-4) have a better chance, a view reinforced by their No. 1 seed. Worthington (19-5), at No. 2, is fresh off a 56-45 win No.