Boys basketball: Hard fought victory for Redwood Valley over Trojans
WORTHINGTON — It seems there are some games you’re just one step away from taking the prize, and the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team had that kind of an effort Friday night.
The Redwood Valley Cardinals —a quick and athletic team that currently sits one game behind Southwest Conference leader Marshall —got a hard-earned 79-70 road win Friday night against the Trojans at Worthington High School.
“Worthington played an exceptional game. They defended really, really well and were physical,” said Redwood Valley coach Markus Okeson, who went to coach the Cardinals after winning back-to-back state titles with Ellsworth. “I knew it would be tight, they did a nice job, too, but we found a way to win.”
Worthington opened the game owning a 6-2 lead off of a pair of free throws from senior guard Marcus Potter and a layup from senior forward Will Dudley. Redwood Valley quickly turned the tables, however, with a run that gave them the lead they would never completely relinquish.
Back-to-back layups from Cardinal seniors Thane Widmer and Taquez Perkins handed the visitors a 23-13 lead with 7:40 to go before the break, but two consecutive layins from junior Oliver Wolyniec capped a 10-3 run that carried Worthington to within three points, at 26-23. Redwood Valley built another lead before the break.
“This was the hardest we’ve played as a group and I was really proud of the effort they had,” Trojans head coach Jared Keaveny said. “We could have done some things a little bit better, but we did some really good things.”
Trailing by six points at halftime, 42-36, Worthington cut the game to a four-point spread, at 44-40 on a Potter layup in traffic and and a shot inside from senior guard Spencer Grafing. Will Mulder then took a cue from Potter under the basket to tie the game at 44-44 only four minutes into the second half. The game was tied again inside 12 minutes to go, at 54 apiece, on a trey from senior guard Ethan Miller. Still, the Trojans couldn’t get over the hump.
The Cardinals built for themselves another lead through the following three minutes, sparked by a three-pointer sunk by senior guard Mitchell Fischer with 7:27 left. The move ostensibly put the game out of reach for Worthington.
Perkins played well from start to finish, sparking his team with athleticism, quickness and smart shooting time and time again off the fast break. He paced his team with 24 points on the night. Fischer chipped in a dozen and Widner had 11.
“We did a good job of dictating the tempo at times but gave them too many fast break points, as well,” Keaveny said. “They spaced us out and they’re very well coached. Any breakdown that we had, they took advantage of it.”
Four players scored in double figures for the hometown black-and-red. Potter and Wolyniec each put up 16, Mulder 11 and Dudley 10. Potter handed out a team-best 10 assists in the game and Wolyniec led the team with seven rebounds.
In the “B” squad game prior to varsity action, Worthington outlasted Redwood Valley, 52-44.
Tonight, the Trojans host a non-conference game against Willmar. Worthington is now 5-8 overall and 4-4 in the Southwest Conference. Redwood Valley improves to 12-3 overall and 6-1 in the league.
“I’m excited to coach this team. I think it’s just going to take a little time. I like what we’re doing and I think we’re turning the corner,” Keaveny said. “We’ll go from seeing a small and quick team to a very big team with Willmar. It will be an adjustment, but I think our guys are energized and want to turn this thing around.”
Redwood Valley 42 79
Worthington 36 70
REDWOOD VALLEY (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Perkins 0-10-4-24, S. Pendleton 0-6-1-13, Fischer 1-2-5-12, Widner 0-4-3-11, Johnson 2-1-2-10, Hengel 2-0-2-8, Buboltz 0-0-1-1. Totals 5-23-18-79.
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Potter 0-7-2-16, Wolyniec 0-6-4-16, Mulder 1-4-0-11, Dudley 0-5-0-10, Grafing 0-3-1-7, Miller 1-0-0-3, Weg 0-1-2-3, Lindner 0-1-0-2, Guerra 0-1-0-2. Totals 2-28-8-70.