Curt Hogg and Jake Schultz
WILLMAR — As they tend to do against New London-Spicer, the Litchfield girls basketball team made things dicey down the stretch. But as the Wildcats have done in every meeting this season, they found a way to win. The No. 2 seed, NLS survived a second-half comeback from Litchfield to hang on for a 65-56 win in a Section 3AA North semifinal on Thursday night at Willmar High School. "They find a way to give us a tough time in the second half whenever we play," Wildcats head coach Mike Dreier said.
ALEXANDRIA — On Thursday night, the Willmar girls basketball team simply did what it has done all season long: grind out a win. This one was just a little more special. Willmar buckled down on the defensive end down the stretch and came away with a hard-fought 48-46 win over Alexandria to win the Central Lakes Conference. No. 8 Willmar trailed No. 5 Alexandria by one game for first place entering the week, but a loss by the northern Cardinals on Tuesday night set the stage for a winner-take-all de facto championship game.
LITCHFIELD — New London-Spicer remains alive for first place in the Wright County Conference West. The Wildcats pounced on Litchfield early and kept the pressure on throughout the night for a 61-36 win, their eighth consecutive in conference play, on Tuesday night at Litchfield High School. After a 1-3 start in the conference, NLS remains one game back of first-place Annandale with two games to play. Just as important, the Wildcats also appear to be finding their groove at the right time just before the section playoffs begin, in which they could receive the top seed.
WILLMAR — For the second consecutive night, and just the second time on the season, the Willmar boys basketball team came up short. No. 5 Marshall blitzed the Cardinals on defense and turned up the pressure on offense in the second half to down No. 4 Willmar 76-62 on Friday night in front of a packed gym at Willmar High School. After a 21-0 start to the year, the Cardinals have dropped consecutive games following a last-second loss at Fergus Falls on Thursday night.
FERGUS FALLS—Undefeated no more. The Willmar boys basketball team suffered its first blemish of the season on Thursday night as a last-second layup gave Fergus Falls an 83-82 win in Central Lakes Conference play. The Cardinals led by six points in the final minute, but a pair of Otters threes and a turnover gave Fergus Falls the ball with 10 seconds to play. A layup with just over four seconds gave the Otters a one-point lead, and Willmar's final shot attempt was no good.
WILLMAR—Whatever it was that Dustin Carlson said to his Willmar girls basketball team at halftime on Friday night, it sure worked. The Cardinals (19-2, 9-2) rebounded from an up-and-down first half against St. Cloud Apollo (10-11, 3-8) by leaving the Eagles in the dust in the second half en route to a 75-50 win at Willmar High School. Hannah Johnson and Cayle Hovland each scored 16 points to lead the Cardinals, who remained one game back of first place in the Central Lakes Conference.
WILLMAR — The Willmar girls basketball team flipped the switch midway through the second half and erased a 10-point deficit to beat Fergus Falls 59-53 on Thursday night. Carly Wedel buried a go-ahead 3-pointer with just under four minutes to play and the No. 10 Cardinals (18-2, 9-2) continued to stymy the Otters (15-6, 8-5) the rest of the way. Hannah Johnson finished with 19 points to lead all Willmar scorers, leading the charge after Fergus Falls took a 47-37 lead with 9:17 remaining.
WILLMAR—Drey Dirksen picked a good time to have the performance of his career. The junior forward scored 28 points at a remarkably efficient clip to carry the Willmar boys basketball team for most of the evening, and Noah Slagter hit the game-winner in the final minute as the Cardinals improved to 18-0 with a 81-78 win over St. Cloud Tech on Monday. The lone undefeated team remaining in Class AAA, Willmar has done plenty of winning this season. They said this one still felt a bit special.
KERKHOVEN — Dawson-Boyd's Alex Sather reached 1,000 career points, but it was Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg that came away with a winning feeling on Friday night. The Saints used a second-half burst to pull away and down the Blackjacks 66-56 at KMS High School. Sather scored a game-high 25 points, including a 3-pointer in the opening minutes to eclipse the 1,000-point mark, as the Blackjacks controlled the majority of the first half. KMS trailed 32-27 entering halftime, but returned from the locker rooms looking like a new team.
OLIVIA — The recipe for success was simple for the BOLD girls basketball team on Thursday night against Minnewaska. Fast breaks and a fast start. The Warriors followed that plan, jumping out to a big lead early in the first half and cruising to a 65-43 win over the Lakers at BOLD High School. Known for its suffocating full-court press, the Warriors came out with a half-court defense that proved just as decimating, allowing just three points in the first 11 minutes of play.