Girls Basketball: 'Someday' is here for Willmar Cardinals
Willmar girls basketball team aims for state berth Thursday in 8AAA final
WILLMAR — Jaida Reiman remembers being in the stands of the 2018 state tournament with friends, thinking that's exactly where she'd like to be someday.
Sammy Christofer remembers being seated on the end of the bench as a ninth-grader when the Cardinals lost in the section championship. That, she thought, was something she hoped she could remedy someday.
Someday for the Willmar girls basketball team is 7 p.m. Thursday at Alexandria. That's when the Cardinals play for the Section 8AAA title against Detroit Lakes.
The winner earns a berth in the state Class AAA tournament that begins Wednesday, March 16 at the Maturi Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
"It would mean the world," Reiman said of getting to state. "I know when we were in eighth grade, us group of seniors ... we were at the state tournament.
"And we said that was a goal of ours to get there. For sure, it feels great."
Christoffer, a senior guard, would echo that sentiment.
"The last time we made it to the section final was my freshman year and I just sat on the bench," Christoffer said. "We ended up losing.
"But now to be able to have the chance again to go to the state tournament and give it our all, it feels pretty good. It feels like a comeback, almost."
Willmar (19-8) beat Detroit Lakes 54-26 on Jan. 7 at the Big Red Gym. The Lakers (13-12) advanced by beating Alexandria 71-67 in double overtime in the 8AAA semifinals Saturday. Willmar beat Alex twice during the Central Lakes Conference season.
"it's kind of nice knowing who they have," Willmar head coach Dustin Carlson said.
Detroit Lakes was led by Abby Larson and Alexandra Bettcher against Alexandria. Each had 17 points. Larson is a 5-foot-6 junior guard. Bettcher is a 6-1 senior forward, the only senior on the roster.
The third-seeded Lakers have improved. Alexandria beat Detroit Lakes 54-41 on Jan. 27.
Detroit Lakes last won a section championship in 2009. The Lakers also earned state berths in '05 and '07.
"I mean it (being the No. 1 seed) is great and a good confidence booster," Reiman said.
"But we know that's not anything we can rely on. We've still got to go into every game with our best."
Willmar has been to state eight times since first qualifying in 1984. The Cards also qualified in 1992, '94, 2004, '06, '10, '17 and '18. In '04, Willmar finished second in Class AAA.
"We've had the opportunity to go (to state)," Reiman said. "But to be able to go this year would be amazing."
Christoffer and Reiman are two of six seniors on this season's team, which includes Grace Haugen and Ellary Lange and forwards Daniela Parker and Ella Shinn. Five of the six see a lot of floor time.
"After watching a few years ago, watching the older guys, that was our thing," Christoffer said. "That was our goal, to make it to state and go to the state tournament."