Willmar Cards do it again against Thunder

Read how Willmar beat Zimmerman to earn semifinal game with Becker

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Willmar junior guard Mackenzie Jones brings the ball up the floor during Thursday's Section 5AAA quarterfinal against Zimmerman from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Willmar girls basketball team opened its 2019-20 campaign with a commanding victory over Zimmerman on Nov. 22.

Facing the Thunder to begin the postseason, the Cardinals repeated their opening night success with a 69-53 win during a Section 5AAA quarterfinal contest Thursday from Willmar High School.

Junior guard Mackenzie Jones had a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Cards, who move on to face top-seeded Becker at 6 p.m. Saturday from Buffalo High School.


Since the 2015-16 season, Willmar has defeated Zimmerman in seven of its last nine meetings — including all four in the playoffs — and has won the last six by an average of 16 points per game.

“Not our best overall game, but I was proud of the way the girls grinded for each other,” Willmar head coach Dustin Carlson said. “There was never a doubt in their minds as to what the outcome was going to be. Kenzie was lights out tonight and our seniors played their hearts out. (I’m) excited we are peaking at the right time.”

With back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half, Zimmerman tied the game at 38-38 before Willmar surged ahead with a 19-3 run.

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Willmar senior forward Madi Linbo banks in a shot attempt inside during Thursday's Section 5AAA quarterfinal against Zimmerman from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Jones and senior guard Madi Linbo kicked off the spurt with three-point plays in the paint. Junior forward Callie Slagter scored inside while being fouled, but missed the free throw.

Senior guard Katelyn Murphy, senior forward Sadie Raitz and sophomore forward Ella Shinn also put up baskets down low. Willmar attacked the interior, either resulting in field goals or trips to the foul line.

“We attacked really well tonight,” Carlson said. “They have some length coming over to block shots and we really tried to get some passes across the line rather than taking the shots into their bigs. I thought we hit some of those in the middle of the second half and that really opened it up for us.”


In the first half, the Cardinals enjoyed an 11-2 lead and a 32-21 cushion only to see the road team close the gap. Things were different in Willmar’s second half thanks to its defense.

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Willmar senior forward Sadie Raitz passes to a teammate after diving on a loose ball during Thursday's Section 5AAA quarterfinal against Zimmerman from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Relinquishing a 3-pointer to Thunder senior center Gabby Weber to make it 44-41, Willmar forced five missed shots and nine turnovers in the next 14 defensive possessions.

“We just had to get our defensive intensity up,” said Jones, who paced her team with four steals. “We weren’t playing to the best of our ability, especially on defense. We just had to pressure the ball and make sure that we were guarding their right hand because that’s what they were using most.”

Jones led Willmar’s offensive charge in the first half. The junior guard scored 16 of her team’s first 21 points. She was particularly effective from deep, draining four of her five 3-pointers in the first nine minutes.

“I’ve got to thank my teammates on that because they knew I was getting hot, so they just gave me the ball,” Jones remarked.

Thunder sophomore guard Beth Kuker matched Jones’ output in the first half, scoring 16 of her team-high 19 points in the first 18 minutes of the game.


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Willmar senior guard Katelyn Murphy is fouled on a shot attempt in the paint during Thursday's Section 5AAA quarterfinal against Zimmerman from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Murphy was the only other scorer in double figures with 13 points.

Willmar now turns its attention to Becker. The Bulldogs, the No. 2-ranked team in the state, defeated the Cardinals 65-56 on Jan. 11. They also eliminated Willmar from the postseason last year.

“It's just going to take a lot of heart, especially from anybody who comes into the game,” Jones said. “We just have to give it our all, make sure we are on our toes and playing our best.”

Section 5AAA quarterfinal: Zimmerman Thunder at Willmar Cardinals

Section 5AAA
Willmar 69,
Zimmerman 53

Zimmerman (14-12) 32 21 — 53
Willmar (17-10) 35 34 — 69
ZIMMERMAN - Scoring: Liv Williams 4, Payton McEachern 9, Beth Kuker 19, Lydia Hagstrom 7, Abby Larson 2, Samantha Paulsen 4, Kyla Wiley 3, Gabby Weber 3 … 3-point shots: McEachern 3, Kuker 3, Hagstrom 1, Weber 1 … Rebound leader: N/A … Assist leader: N/A … Steal leader: N/A ... Block leader: N/A
WILLMAR - Scoring: Sam Christoffer 2, Katelyn Murphy 13, Mackenzie Jones 26, Sadie Raitz 7, Callie Slagter 2, Madi Linbo 8, Ella Shinn 2, Ashley Prahl 9 … 3-point shots: Jones 5, Linbo 1, Prahl 1 … Rebound leader: Jones 11 … Assist leader: Christoffer 3 … Steal leader: Jones 4 ... Block leader: Slagter 1

Section 3AA-North
NLS 63,
Benson 27

Top-seeded New London-Spicer used a dominant first half to defeat No. 4 Benson in the Section 3AA-North playoffs at Minnewaska High School in Glenwood.

The Wildcats led 34-7 at halftime.

Emma Hanson led NLS with 15 points, all scored on five three-pointers. Ava Kraemer had 12 points and MacKenzie Rich added 11 for the Wildcats.

Claire Ricard had 16 points and six blocked shots to lead Benson.

NLS plays Eden Valley-Watkins at 8 p.m. Tuesday from Willmar High School in the 3AA-North championship game.

Benson (16-12) 7 20 — 27
NLS (26-1) 34 29 — 63
BENSON - Scoring: Kaitlyn Berreau 5, Claire Ricard 16, Abby Lundebrek 1, Kimmy Pagel 3, Beth Cain 2 … 3-point shots: Berreau 1, Pagel 1 … Rebound leaders: Berreau 5, Lundebrek 6 … Assist leader: Abby Mitteness 3 … Steal leaders: Ricard 2, Hannah Andrews 2 ... Block leaders: Ricard 6, Mitteness 3.
NEW LONDON-SPICER - Scoring: Izzy Schmiesing 2, MacKenzie Rich 11, Emma Hanson 15, Payton Mages 4, Ellie Hanson 6, Grace DeSchepper 4, Ava Kraemer 12, Audrey Schneider 4, Erin Kinsley 5 … 3-point shots: Rich 3, Hanson 5 … Rebound leaders: DeSchepper 10, Kinsley 8, Hanson 7, Kraemer 7, Jaden Coahran 7 … Assist leader: Mages 6, Kraemer 4 … Steal leader: Mages 3 ... Block leader: DeSchepper 2

EV-W 52,
Morris/CA 39

Morris/Chokio-Alberta enjoyed a 17-16 at halftime, but was outscored 14 points in second half in a loss to Eden Valley-Watkins.

In her final game, senior center Malory Anderson led the Tigers with 10 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Morris/CA finishes its season with a 17-10 record.

Morris/CA (17-10) 17 24 — 39
EV-W (21-7) 16 36 — 52
MORRIS/CHOKIO-ALBERTA - Scoring: Emma Bowman 5, Makenna Kehoe 4, LaRae Kram 9, Sydney Dietz 3, Kylie Swanson 2, Malory Anderson 10, Kendra Wevley 6 … 3-point shots: Bowman 1 … Rebound leader: Anderson 9 … Assist leader: Dietz 2, Anderson 2, Wevley 2 … Steal leader: Anderson 3 ... Block leader: Anderson 2
EDEN VALLEY-WATKINS - Stats not available

Section 5A-West
BBE 79,
Browerville/EV 55

Jenna Dingmann pumped in 16 points and Abby Berge added 13 to lead Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to the Section 5A-West win over Browerville/Eagle Valley at Belgrade.

Second-seeded BBE advances to play No. 3 Pine River-Backus at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Wadena-Deer Creek High School.

Pine River-Backus beat No. 6 Verndale 71-54.

Browerville/EV (10-16) 25 30 — 55
BBE (16-10) 33 46 — 79
BROWERVILLE/EAGLE VALLEY - Statistics not available
BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA - Scoring: Karsee Kampsen 4, Jacqueline Gossen 4, Jackie Lindsay 5, Grace Illies 8, Jenna Dingmann 16, Liz French 2, Abby Berge 13, Josie Knutson 3, Alissa Knight 6, Karissa Jones 18 … 3-point shots: Lindsay 1, Dingmann 1, Berge 3 … Rebound leader: Knight 8 … Assist leader: Dingmann 2 … Steal leader: Gossen 3 ... Block leader: Jones 1

Sebeka 60,
KMS 53 (OT)

Fourth-seeded Sebeka needed an 11-4 overtime advantage to beat fifth-seeded Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in the Section 5A-North playoffs.

Sebeka faces No. 1 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley at 6 p.m. Saturday in Wadena.

Kenzie Nelson had 24 points, including six three-pointers, and Maya Lake added 19 for Sebeka.

For KMS, Madison Rohner had 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. Morgan Lesteberg added 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.

KMS (14-13) 19 30 4 — 53
Sebeka (16-11) 33 16 11— 60
KERKHOVEN-MURDOCK-SUNBURG - Scoring: Morgan Lesteberg 15, Maret Gjerde 6, Haylee Johnson 4, Josie Gjerde 3, Madison Rohner 21, Lauren Krieger 4 … 3-point shots: Lesteberg 1, M. Gjerde 1, J. Gjerde 1… Rebound leaders: Rohner 15, Lesteberg 7 … Assist leaders: Rohner 4, Lesteberg 3, M. Gjerde 3 … Steal leader: Lesteberg 4 ... Block leader: Rohner 5
SEBEKA - Scoring: Maggie Erickson 1, Kenzie Nelson 24, Maya Lake 19, Jolee Lillquist 4, Allisyn Rathcke 2, Jayde Petersen 10 … 3-point shots: Nelson 6, Lake 1 … Rebound leader: N/A … Assist leader: N/A … Steal leader: N/A ... Block leader: N/A

Section 6A-South
Hancock 50,
Battle Lake 39

Sophomore guard Carlee Hanson had 12 points and junior guard Alexis Staples added 11 to lead second-seeded Hancock to the Section 6A-South victory over No. 7 Battle Lake at Hancock.

The Owls play No. 3 Parkers Prairie at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Parkers Prairie beat No. 6 Wheaton/Herman-Norcross 56-42.

Sophomore guard Grace Van Erp had 19 points to lead Battle Lake.

Battle Lake (8-17) N/A N/A — 39
Hancock (21-6) N/A N/A — 50
BATTLE LAKE - Scoring: Grace Van Erp 19, Makenna Tysdal 7, Tessa Kortlever 6, Adysen Tysdal 4, Morgan Malone 2, Halie Johnson 1 … 3-point shots: Van Erp 3, M. Tysdal 1 … Rebound leader: N/A … Assist leader: N/A … Steal leader: N/A ... Block leader: N/A

HANCOCK - Scoring: Carlee Hanson 12, Alexis Staples 11, Rylee Hanson 8, Tori Pahl 5, Misti Zempel 4, Lindsey Mattson 4, Kaitlyn Staples 3, Morgan Kisgen 3 … 3-point shots: A. Staples 2, Kisgen 1, K. Staples 1 … Rebound leader: Pahl 11 … Assist leader: Kisgen 2 … Steal leader: Kisgen 2 ... Block leader: N/A

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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