Title shot not in Cards
ST. CLOUD -- The Willmar Cardinals fell out of the Central Lakes Conference title picture on Thursday with a 51-44 loss to St. Cloud Apollo. The Eagles, now 15-1 in the CLC, have ninth-place Fergus Falls and first-place Rocori left. The best Will...
ST. CLOUD -- The Willmar Cardinals fell out of the Central Lakes Conference title picture on Thursday with a 51-44 loss to St. Cloud Apollo.
The Eagles, now 15-1 in the CLC, have ninth-place Fergus Falls and first-place Rocori left. The best Willmar can do now is 15-3 with Rocori (15-1) and Sauk Rapids left. Since Rocori and Apollo meet in the final game, one of them will finish no worse than 16-2.
Apollo's game has been amplified by the development of fleet sophomore guard Andre Garth, who didn't figure in Willmar's 51-45 win over Apollo Jan. 11. This time his quickness produced nine points and several steals.
"He put a lot of pressure on (Kyle) Townswick," said Willmar head coach Steve Grove, referring to Willmar's leading scorer, who was held to eight points. "They closed hard on our perimeter and we couldn't get to the free-throw line either.''
The Cardinals' jump shots didn't fall and they didn't generate much offense down deep. The Eagles held 6-6 Ryan Hagemeyer to only six points.
No Cardinal reached double figures for the first time this season and Willmar got to the line just once.
"We had a great effort but our shots just didn't fall," said Grove. "They pounded the ball inside to their big guys (Seth) Noreen and Kendall Smith. They were both in double figures and that was a big difference."
Willmar started well with Cory Hanson and Michael Dunham sinking consecutive three-pointers for a 6-2 lead. But Apollo quickly caught up. It was a two-point game until Hanson's three-point play at 5:00 made for an 18-15 lead.
The Eagles then outscored the Cardinals 7-0 to end the first half to take a 22-18 lead to the locker room.
As expected with two teams with 19 wins each, play was intense and physical in a playoff atmosphere.
Apollo busted to a nine-point lead, 33-24, to start the second half. Willmar answered with a 9-0 run to tie it 33-33.
A Jordan Smith three-pointer made it 39-all, but Apollo pulled away again and this time Willmar wouldn't catch up.
Noreen, a 6-6 Division II football recruit, scored all 11 of his points in the second half. Smith, a 6-5 junior, scored 12 and 6-2 floor leader Preston Whitaker added nine more.
Hanson led Willmar with nine points. Hagemeyer grabbed seven rebounds.
The Class AAAA Eagles have now won 12 in a row since the loss at Willmar and are 16-1 since losing to Hopkins, ranked No. 1 team in AAAA.
Willmar prepares for Rocori at Willmar on Tuesday. The Spartans are rated No. 2 in Class AAA and Willmar No. 6.
SC Apollo 53, Willmar 44
Willmar (13-3, 19-4) 18 16 -- 44
SC Apollo (15-1, 20-4) 22 31 -- 53
WILLMAR - 18-43 FG (7-24 3-pt); 1-1 FT; 21 rebounds; 21 fouls ... Scoring: Kyle Townswick 8, Matt Seehusen 2, Cory Hanson 9, Michael Dunham 7, Jordan Smith 8, Casey Sussenguth 4, Ryan Hagemeyer 6 ... 3-point shots: Townwick 2, Hanson 2, Jordan Smith 2, Dunham 1... Rebound leaders: Hagemeyer 7 ... Assist leaders: Dunham 3 ... Steal leaders: Seehusen 2
ST. CLOUD APOLLO - 19-46 FG (3-5 3-pt); 12-20 FT; 23 rebounds; 12 fouls ... Scoring: Nick Simon 4, Luke Skay 4, Andre Garth 9, Preston Whitaker 9, Kendall Smith 12, Matt Stock 1, Ryan Cosman 3, Seth Noreen 11 ... 3-point shots: Simon 1, Whitaker 1, Cosman 1 ... Rebound leaders: not available