Boys Basketball: Willmar whips Zimmerman
WILLMAR— Spring sports season hasn't quite begun yet, but a track meet broke out at Willmar High School on Tuesday night.
Five players scored in double figures as the No. 1 seed Cardinals nearly put up a century's worth of points with a 99-80 win over No. 8 Zimmerman in a Section 5AAA quarterfinal to open the postseason.
Still, Willmar head coach Matt Williams said there was room to improve.
"To be honest, I didn't feel like we had great rhythm on offense all night," Williams said. "That sounds odd because we scored so many points, but we didn't move side-to-side or move the ball as much as we'd like. It felt a bit out of rhythm."
Jake Evans led the balanced attack by scoring game-high 20 points and punctuated a late first-half run for Willmar with a fastbreak dunk.
After Zimmerman held a 26-25 lead, the Cardinals rattled off a 14-5 run capped by Evans' dunk and kept the foot on the gas to enter the half with a 44-34 lead.
Willmar had struggled to get stops until that point, allowing 18 points in 12 possessions at one point as the Thunder held a 26-25 lead.
With a few defensive stops, the Cardinals were able to turn defense into offense.
"We try to take pride in our defense and have that turn into our offense.
Williams said. "It was a dogfight early on. Then we got a couple of good stops and got out on the break and get some easy buckets."
After scoring 1.419 points per possession in the first half, the Cardinals didn't relent as a 9-2 run to open the half extended the lead to 55-36.
"All night we did a good job of putting our heads down and getting to the rim," Williams said. "So coming out of halftime with that run gave us some space, which helped"
Zimmerman would draw within nine points with just over eight minutes to play, but Drey Dirksen scored five straight points to regain a 14-point advantage.
Noah Slagter, Ryan Slette and Ty Roelofs all scored 14 points, and Dirksen added 11 points to round out the team's double-digit scorers. Roelofs and Dirksen both finished with double-doubles, grabbing 13 and 10 boards, respectively.
"What I really liked tonight is that we were balanced," Williams said. "It wasn't just Noah doing it offensively. Jake had one of his best nights on offense, Ty grabbing rebounds, Drey and Ryan contributing—it was all nice to see."
For the game, the Cardinals scored 1.363 points per possession, but the 1.102 PPP allowed didn't sit too well with their head coach.
"Zimmerman, from watching a lot of film on them, we knew they were a good offensive team with a lot of strong guys that can score," Williams said. "Still, we'd like to see a little better defensive performance the next time out."
That next time out will come this weekend as Willmar will play Big Lake on Saturday in a semifinal at Halenbeck Hall on St. Cloud State's campus at 2 p.m.
The two teams met on Dec. 16, with the Cardinals coming away with a 61-45 victory.
Willmar 99, Zimmerman 80
Zimmerman (8-19) 34 46 — 80
Willmar (25-2) 44 55 — 99
ZIMMERMAN - Scoring: Jake Pensinger 19, Noah Rotz 12, Dylan Larrabee 11, Sam Egland 10, Dylan Martin 8, Carter McEachern 8, Jeg Schottenbauer 4, Alex Zillmer 3, Cade Dering 2, Ian Carlin 2, Nate Carlin 1 ... 3-point shots: Rotz 2, Larrabee 1, Martin 1, Zillmer 1 ... Rebound leader: Martin 8 ... Assist leader: Schottenbauer 2 ... Steal leader: Three with 1
WILLMAR - Scoring: Jake Evans 20, Noah Slagter 14, Ty Roelofs 14, Ryan Slette 14, Drey Dirksen 11, Cameron Murphy 8, Noah Getz 7, Donald Jurek 6, Adam Roux 3, Bryan Weidemann 2 ... 3-point shots: Evans 3, Slagter 1, Dirksen 1 ... Rebound leader: Roelofs 13, Dirksen 10 ... Assist leader: Dirksen 6, Roelofs 3 ... Steal leader: Slagter 2, Getz 2