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Rocori rolls past Willmar

WILLMAR -- Over 1,300 people -- the largest crowd of the season -- showed up Tuesday night at the Willmar gym to see the Cardinals play the No. 2-ranked team in Class AAA.

WILLMAR -- Over 1,300 people -- the largest crowd of the season -- showed up Tuesday night at the Willmar gym to see the Cardinals play the No. 2-ranked team in Class AAA.

What they saw was not so much a basketball game as a clinic.

With precision and flow, the Spartans dominated from the opening tip to the final buzzer in claiming a 67-37 victory. Coach Bob Brink's conference co-leaders bolted to a 14-1 lead and never allowed their befuddled hosts a glimpse of the lead.

The Spartans were expert at rebounding at both ends, taking care of the ball and shooting the three-pointer (9 of 20). Willmar came up short in all respects.

Willmar, which plays at Sauk Rapids on Friday to close the regular season, will finish third in the Central Lakes Conference. Rocori will host St. Cloud Apollo the same evening with the winner claiming the title.

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Last night's lopsided outcome was unexpected. Willmar had forced overtime before losing at Cold Spring in January.

Willmar coach Steve Grove said he's never seen Rocori shoot the ball any better -- 26 for 50.

"Rocori came to play and we didn't," said Grove. "They outhustled us and outrebounded us. When you do that it's pretty easy to outscore the other team."

Justin Stommes, all arms and legs and instinctive basketball moves, led the Rocori attack with 17 points. Support was plentiful. Sam Feldhege's long jump shots added up to 14 points, Ben Aaseth, another long-limbed forward, added 11 points and guard Derek Eisenschenk eight.

Willmar, ranked No. 6, needed the 3-pointer like a race car needs a turbocharger to keep pace in fast company. The Cardinals were 1 of 13 from the arc.

Ryan Hagemeyer, working hard down low, led Willmar with 11 points. Starters Matt Seehusen, Cory Hanson and Michael Dunham combined for five points.

"Defensively, they turned it up a notch," noted Grove.

Willmar's top scorer Kyle Townswick was 3 of 12 for six points. Sophomore Jordan Smith rummaged for six points.

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Willmar could earn a third shot at the Spartans in the Section 8AAA final set for Moorhead March 15. Rocori is certain to be there, but after last night, Willmar and its fans have to wonder.

Rocori 67, Willmar 37

Rocori (16-1, 21-2) 36 31 -- 67

Willmar (13-4, 19-5) 15 22 -- 37

ROCORI - 26-50 FG (9-20 3-pt); 6-8 FT; 29 rebounds; 11 fouls ... Scoring: Sam Feldhage 14, Brian Hansen 2, Derek Eisenschenk 8, Luke Vossen 7, Justin Udermann 3, Aaron Burtzel 2, Chad Aaseth 11, Justin Stommes 17, Mike Kotes 1 ... 3-point shots: Feldhege 2, Eisenschenk 2, Udermann 1, Aaseth 2, Stomees 1, Koltes 1... Rebound leaders: not available.

WILLMAR - 17-42 FG (1-13 3-pt); 2-6 FT; 21 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Kyle Townswick 6, Cory Hanson 2, Michael Dunham 3, Jordan Smith 8, Casey Sussenguth 5, Ryan DeGree 2, Ryan Hagemeyer 11 ... 3-point shots: Dunham 1 ... Rebound leaders: Matt Seehusen 4, Smith 5, Hagemeyer 7 ... Assist leaders: Townswick 2, Smith 2 ... Steal leaders: Hanson 3, Adam Lindblad 2 ... Blocks: Sussenguth 3, Smith 2, Isaiah Streed 1

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