Girls Basketball: Willmar cruises into Section 2AAA final
WILLMAR - Willmar needed a little spark. Content to pass the ball around the perimeter and wait for post players to get open in the paint, the Cardinals' girls basketball team went into the halftime break against Hutchinson with a 26-22 lead in t...
WILLMAR - Willmar needed a little spark.
Content to pass the ball around the perimeter and wait for post players to get open in the paint, the Cardinals' girls basketball team went into the halftime break against Hutchinson with a 26-22 lead in the Section 2AAA semifinals Saturday at the high school.
The boost came from 5-foot-7 guard Hannah Smith, who became a one-girl wrecking crew for almost four minutes. She had a couple of steals, sank two 3-pointers and scored a total of 12 points to lift Willmar to a 38-22 lead. The Cardinals cruised from there to a 65-41 win, placing the No. 1 seed into the section championship game Thursday in Mankato. Willmar will face No. 2 Worthington, which beat the Cardinals in last year's section title game.
Smith, who finished with 24 points, converted two straight Tiger turnovers into four points to start the half, nailed a three-pointer on Willmar's next possession, then made Hutchinson pay for two more turnovers with a basket and another three-pointer. Alex Lippert scored off an offensive rebound to give the Cardinals a 40-22 before the Tigers could score a point.
"We came out aggressive on the offensive end and we wanted to win more," said Smith.
"We talked about it at halftime," Willmar coach Brad Atchison said. "Offensively, we had to be more aggressive and get to the hole. Defensively, we had to force more turnovers."
To start the game, Hutchinson pushed the ball harder and took advantage of its open shots. The Tigers held a three-point lead with less than five minutes left in the first half on a Nichole Wittman trey. Hutchinson made three 3-pointers in the half.
Free-throw shooting kept Willmar in the lead. The Cardinals sank 9 of 12 and Lippert made 6 of 8 on her way to 10 points.
I thought we played a little conservative, a little tight," Atchison said of the first half. "But overall we were really happy with our defense."
After opening the second half with a bang, the tempo settled down for a time until the Tigers started to press Willmar in the backcourt. The Cardinals handled the pressure well and sank their charity-stripe tosses as they paraded to the free-throw line 13 times in the last six minutes, making 11.
"We always talk about the importance of the start of the second half," said Atchison. "I think people tend to forget about it."
Lippert scored four points in the second half to finish with 14 and pulled down 12 rebounds. Sara Kallhoff added 10 points, including eight free throws, all in the second half.
Wittman's 16 points paced the Tigers. Alissa Ratterath added 10 points.
Willmar 65, Hutchinson 41
Hutchinson (11-15)............22 19 -- 41
Willmar (22-4).....................26 39 -- 65
HUTCHINSON - 14-55 FG (4-21 3-pt); 9-13 FT; 24 rebounds; 19 fouls ... Scoring: Alissa Retterath 10, Olivia Decker 1, Tessa Ewert 2, Morgan Julius 2, Nichole Wittman 16, Danielle Christie 2, Megan Olinger 5, Angela Tauer 3 ... 3-point shots: Retterath 2, Wittman 1, Christie 1 ... Rebound leaders: Tauer 5 ... Assist leaders: Ewert 3 ... Steal leaders: Laura Schommer 2
WILLMAR - 20-46 FG (3-7 3-pt); 22-28 FT; 29 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring: Mariel Aamot 7, Hannah Smith 24, Sara Kallhoff 10, Kayli Gimse 6, Alex Lippert 14, Jena Thompson 4 ... 3-point shots: Aamot 1, Smith 2 ... Rebound leaders: Lippert 12, Smith 5, Jen Knake 5 ... Assist leaders: Kallhoff 3, Knake 3 ... Steal leaders: Smith 5 ... Blocks: Lippert 5, Knake 3