Willmar vs Grand Rapids (AAA Quarterfinal #1)

So Grand Rapids has their band and Willmar has an absolute army of fans and a monster size band. Grand Rapids has no seniors on the roster and Willmar has star soph Taylor Filipek so youth is on display. And who says Mariucci is a bad environment. Willmar filled a whole side with their fans and most of the gigantic area behind the baskets with their band. Interesting to see them using the Xcel Energy floor (Xcel Energy and St Paul Minnesota logos included), looked goofy but I can't blame them for that. And best of all we have the Willmar Cardinal (mascot).

Grand Rapids starting in the world's WORST offense (the flex, I hate it with a passion and while I'm a Wisconsin guy, I hate its sister, the Swing Offense, too). We go back and forth with Grand Rapids taking a 9-7 lead on a Matt Sjostrand hoop on the block with 13:10 to go. Willmar is then sparked by Taylor Filipek. He gets a steal which leads to a Casey Sussenguth bucket, then a pretty assist for a Jordan Smith layup and then 2 of his own which includes missing the FT since he got fouled. He gets a block when turns into a 3 for Adam Lindblad and Smith finishes the 13-2 run with a steal and bucket. 20-9 Willmar with 10 minutes to go in the 1st half. Jared Sutherland tries to keep Grand Rapids in it as he gets 8 of their next 10 points. But Corey Sussenguth is doing a layup drill inside. He gets 1 of those with 4:30 left in the half to extend the lead to 33-19. But Brian Akre makes 2 FTs with no time on the clock to make 35-23 Willmar at halftime. Sussenguth with 12, Jordan Smith with 6 and he's cleaning the glass. Filipek only 2 points, but he's playing defense, being unselfish and when he turned it on, it was fun to watch. Sutherland with 8 for Grand Rapids.

Willmar starts the 2nd half on a 14-2 run thanks to Ryan Degree being open inside off dump offs and on the offensive glass. The run concludes with a Sussenguth block leading to a Isaiah Streed bucket and 1, but FT is no good and gets tipped out with Michael Dunham knocking down a 3 to make it 49-25 with 11:25 left. Grand Rapids gets 7 in a row to pull within 53-36 with 6:34 left. Its all garbage time until the end. Willmar rolls 63-42.

Grand Rapids has everybody back from a 13-18 squad. Look for their record to be much improved next year. Jared Sutherland with 12 and Eric Stark 9 for the Thunderhawks. Willmar improves to 24-5. Casey Sussenguth with 15, Michael Dunham with 10. Taylor Filipek with only 4 points, but he did lots more than those 4 points. Very unselfish, mobile, good vision, good handle. A couple of bad 3s, but overall a nice game for him.

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