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Boys Basketball: Willmar battles but can't catch Magic

ST. MICHAEL -- Monticello put up magical numbers to start Friday night's Section 5AAA semifinal game against Willmar, then had to hold for dear life to knock off the Cardinals 66-59 at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

Willmar's Connor Stevens shoots a finger roll in Friday's Section 5AAA game against Monticello at St. Michael-Albertville High School in St. Michael. Jake Schultz / Tribune
Willmar's Connor Stevens shoots a finger roll in Friday's Section 5AAA game against Monticello at St. Michael-Albertville High School in St. Michael. Jake Schultz / Tribune

ST. MICHAEL - Monticello put up magical numbers to start Friday night's Section 5AAA semifinal game against Willmar, then had to hold for dear life to knock off the Cardinals 66-59 at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

The Cardinals ended their season 15-13 while the Magic, now 13-15, move on to face the winner between Delano and Big Lake for the section title at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Cloud State.

The Magic jumped out to a 12-0 lead thanks to some lights-out shooting and strong defense, putting the Cardinals on their heels before the game's first timeout.

"It was a tough start," said Willmar head coach Matt Williams. "They came out making shots and really flying around and we didn't match it. So, you start the game and it's 10-0 and you've got to battle. And our guys did battle, these guys always battle."

The Cardinals did battle back, using an 8-0 run of their own to bring the game within four points, but the Magic refused to give up the lead. Monticello extended the lead again to 10 points, this time making it 18-8 with some long-range accuracy. This was the see-saw affair that ran rampant throughout the game and prevented Willmar from ever taking the lead.

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The Cardinals' greatest opportunity came midway through the second period when they trimmed the deficit to three points, but again the Magic had an answer.

Oftentimes, the Magic's answer was either Austin Wetter or Austin Puppe, who combined to scored 43 of their team's 66 points. Puppe was clinical inside, going 7-for-7 on two-point field goals as part of his 21-point night, while Wetter slashed his way to a game-high 22 points on 50 percent shooting, including three triples.

"Give all the credit to Monticello, they made some really tough shots," Williams said. "Our goal is to try to make guys shoot over outstretched hands and they made some really tough shots over outstretched hands."

Ty Roelofs, Jake Evans, Drey Dirksen and Ryan Slette each had moments for Willmar and each reached double digits on the scoresheet. Roelofs and Dirksen led the way with 15 points each. Evans was a knockdown shooter, hitting four of his eight 3-point efforts for 14 points. Roelofs, meanwhile, left his mark on every part of the game, adding a game-high 16 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks to his 15 points.

Willmar excelled on the glass, in particular. They outrebounded Monticello 31-21, pulling down 11 offensive rebounds to Monticello's one.

But the fact of the matter was Monticello didn't need to rebound as much. The Magic shot 56.4 percent from the field and went 16-for-19 from the charity stripe in a game that featured 30 total fouls. Willmar, meanwhile, went 3-for-10 from the foul line.

Despite the tough shooting night and slow start, Willmar never let the game get out of reach. Motnicello's largest lead proved to be that 12-0 start, which the Cardinals chopped down throughout the game.

"I'm proud of the effort they gave," Williams said. "I never doubted the effort. It's just tough when you're playing from behind the whole way. We kept getting it to five and just couldn't get over that hump."

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Section 5AAA

Semifinals

Monticello 66,

Willmar 59

Monticello (13-15) 31 35 - 66

Willmar (15-13) 26 33 - 59

MONTICELLO - Scoring: Austin Puppe 21, Shawn Sellner 3, Blake Thompson 14, Austin Wetter 22, Carson Sawatzke 4, Gus Hangsleben 2 ... 3-point shots: Puppe 1, Wetter 3, Sellner 1, Sawatzke 1 ... Rebound leader: Wetter 9 ... Assist leader: Wetter 3 ... Steal leader: Wetter 2

WILLMAR - Scoring: Ty Roelofs 15, Jake Evans 14, Drey Dirksen 15, Ryan Slette 13, Connor Stevens 2 ... 3-point shots: Evans 4, Dirksen 3, Slette 1 ... Rebound leader: Roelofs 16, Dirksen 8 ... Assist leader: Roelofs 7, Dirksen 3 ... Steal leader: Dirksen 2

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