Willmar wasn't going to quit. No matter how ugly it looked.
The No. 6-ranked Cardinals overcame a 15-point halftime deficit to knock off No. 5 DeLaSalle 52-47 in overtime in the Class 3A quarterfinals Wednesday at Williams Arena. They scored all 10 of their points in the extra session on free throws, with senior guard Cayle Hovland making six of them.
"We knew we would have to grind it out," said Hovland, who had a game-high 15 points, seven coming from the free-throw line where the Cardinals were 19-for-36. "We kicked it into gear at halftime."
Teammate Hannah Johnson, a junior guard, had the other four free throws in overtime and finished with 14 points. She made nine free throws in all.
"We started dribble attacking," Willmar coach Dustin Carlson said. "We were better spaced out in the second half."
Willmar (26-2) scored the first seven points of overtime before DeLaSalle senior guard Ayanna Gardner made a three-pointer.
Gardner, who had 10 points, had scored on a runner down the middle of the lane with eight seconds left in regulation after grabbing an offensive rebound to tie it at 42-all. The Islanders quickly forced a turnover, but missed a last-second three-pointer so it went to overtime.
"It comes down to you have to make shots," DeLaSalle coach Tanysha Scott said. "We were getting our shots."
DeLaSalle (19-9), seeded fourth, went 5-for-34 from the field in the second half and overtime.
The Cardinals, who trailed 29-14 at halftime, were held without a basket for the first 8:45 of the game. They shot 24 percent from the field and turned the ball over 15 times in the first half.
"There was nothing positive to talk about at the offensive end in the first half," Carlson said. "We had to be ourselves, be normal."
Cooper 58, Alexandria 51: Hawks senior Jada Buford came into the state tournament averaging nearly eight points per game. It turns out, the big stage agrees with her.
She scored a season-high 20 points in her team's victory over Alexandria. It was the Cooper's 20th consecutive victory.
"I play better when I'm kind of just in my zone," Buford said.
After a first half when the top-seeded Hawks (27-2) shot only 24.4 percent, Buford made one of her three three-pointers to start the second half.
Buford's older sister, Kiara Buford, coaches the team and acknowledged some jitters for her team in its first state trip.
"Missed a lot of layups [Wednesday]," the coach said. "That's our bread and butter."
Freshman Andrea Tribble added 18 points off the bench, including going 3-for-3 from three-point range. She made one of them with 13 seconds left in the first half for a 27-24 lead at the break.
"I really just had to contribute to the team," Tribble said.
Alexandria senior Courtney Gould led her team with 15 points. The Cardinals (23-6) led for much of the first half and kept it close. Cooper just hit the big shots when they needed them.
"They're a fantastic defensive team," Alexandria coach Wendy Kohler said.
Northfield 49, Mankato West 44: It was the third meeting for Big 9 Conference foes Northfield and Mankato West. The Raiders just happen to be taller and pose matchup problems.
The four 6-footers for second-seeded Northfield combined for 27 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Raiders swept the season series. Northfield won the previous games 66-62 and 48-37.
The Raiders opened up their largest lead, 42-27, with only four minutes left. The margin was trimmed to four when Scarlets junior guard Ashley Gustavson sank one of two free throws with 18 seconds left.
"When we play too fast, we get into trouble," Raiders coach Tony Mathison said. "This is the third team in a row we were playing for the third time. To expect us to pull away isn't going to happen."
Senior center Annika Hoff used her distinct height advantage to lead Northfield (26-3) with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Hoff is 6-3 while the tallest Mankato West player is 5-10.
"Our height is a huge strength for us," Hoff said. "We emphasize getting it into the post."
Gustavson (15 points) and sophomore guard Holly Wiste (14) combined for 29 points for Mankato West (21-8).
"We tried to simulate [the height disadvantage] the best we could in practice," Wiste said. "They are so much taller than us. It was hard."