The opening Class AA quarterfinal game Wednesday night at Target Center featured a pair of Wright County Conference schools, the New London-Spicer Wildcats and the top seeded Annandale Cardinals. in their third meeting this season. In round three, it was Chase Knickerbocker's game high 23 points that led the Cardinal to a 76-70 win over the Wildcats.
It was the third straight win for Annandale against their Highway 55 rivals. On January 30, they came away with a 61-50 win. The second meeting on February 6 was closer as the Cardinals prevailed 61-57.
Now to the third meeting. The Wildcats struck first on Adam Essler's basket :13 into the game. Matt Miller's basket evened the game at two. The lead went back and forth several times until the Cardinals went on a 6-0 run. NL-S came back as they were hitting shots from Green Lake. Annandale went into a slowdown mode with under four minutes left until Andrew Fort scored. Shane Zylstra hit a pair of three pointers to give the Wildcats a 36-33 halftime lead.
The Cardinals began to fly back in the second half on a couple of threes from Knickerbocker. Zylstra's basket put the Wildcats up by three and Fort evened the game on a three point play. Annandale would go on a 7-0 run but NL-S would come back on Zylstra's two handed dunk. However, he was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Knickerbocker would put the game away at he free throw line, going 6-10 in the second half and sending the Cardinals back to the semifinals.
Other players in double figures for Annandale were Miller with 18. Fort had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Kyler Fobbe had 13 and Tanner Olean contributed 10.
Zylstra led NL-S with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Essler added 15, Brett Olson 14 and Jonny DeGeest, who made an outstanding pass to Ethan Bohleen in the first half scored 10.
Annandale improved to 24-6 and will face the St. Paul Academy-Caledonia winner Friday night at 6 PM at Target Center. NL-S concluded their season at 19-11.
Essler, Zylstra and Ryan Vraa were several Wildcats who also played in the Class AAA football championship game, losing to St. Croix Lutheran. Cardinal assistant coach Dave Greve is the father-in-law of Minnesota Lynx payer Lindsey Whalen.