Boys basketball: In an intense effort, Trojans fight and win
WORTHINGTON — On their Senior Night, the eight seniors of the Worthington boys basketball team made a choice that they wouldn’t go down easily, so they didn’t.
In a game where the group weathered several storms, Worthington finally saw the outcome it sought when the final horn sounded. The Trojans escaped with a 68-65 victory over visiting Martin County West Tuesday night and capped the regular season.
“I’m really excited for our seniors and for us to get an exciting win on the last time they’re playing (here),” Worthington head coach Jared Keaveny said following the game. “The guys just gutted one out. We got down early but we dug deep, got stops and never quit.”
The Trojans fought an uphill battle early on but never let things get out of reach. It was a first half of cat and mouse play. When MCW built for itself a six- or eight-point lead, Worthington reliably took its time to resourcefully close the gap. The teams combined for 10 three-pointers in the opening half.
Worthington held its first meaningful lead with just less than five minutes remaining in the opening half on a pair of free throws from senior guard Marcus Potter. Whether it was swatting away at an opponent’s pass, making an extra effort to tuck away a rebound or courageously taking a tough shot, the Trojans’ senior class led the way no matter which team held the lead.
The Mavs held a 38-36 edge at halftime, but for Worthington the game still revolved around a conscious effort on its defense and ability to clean the glass.
“I think our difference was that we were intense on defense. We showed tonight what we can do when we play for an entire game. It was a game where we played that type of defense for an entire game,” Keaveny stressed. “I was really proud that we didn’t roll over or didn’t stop. We kept getting stops and kept ourselves in the game.”
Both teams played toe-to-toe in the second half and continually traded leads. Senior forward Will Dudley utilized nifty moves in the paint to knot the game at 38-38 out of the locker room and the slugfest moved on.
Senior guard Jessie Guerra pieced together a pair of momentum-seizing shots down the stretch — one with 4:25 remaining to give the Trojans a three-point deficit and another less than a minute later to earn a lead at 59-58 — and others also played key parts.
Martin County West forward Cordell Weber, who is his team’s leading scorer, breathed life into his club by tying the game at 65-all with under a minute to go, but the life was short-lived.
A pair of fouls called on Mavs senior Jake Faber and another on junior Sam Baker sent both Dudley and senior Spencer Grafing to the free throw line late to secure the game. One of the fouls came when Dudley ripped down a monstrous rebound with eight-tenths of a second on the clock.
Dudley (12 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and four assists) was one of four players scoring double-digits for the Trojans. Potter further paved the way with 20 points and three assists; Spencer Grafing added 16 and Oliver Wolyniec 10. Faber led the Mavericks with 21 points.
“It was definitely an emotional night for us all — all of us seniors,” Dudley said after his final game on the WHS hardwood. “We’ve all been playing together since fourth grade and tonight was the last time we were going to be together at home. We definitely wanted to come out and win.”
The result ultimately rested upon Dudley’s club’s confidence and its will to do the little things needed for a win, he thought.
“We just had confidence that we could win. We’ve kind of had a rough stretch here, but we turned it around tonight,” he said. “Our fans were incredible tonight, as usual. We just went out and made plays.”
Confidence surely will build for the Trojans after this one — after they dropped MCW to 12-11 and await postseason play. Due to a scheduling conflict, Thursday’s game for WHS with Cedar Mountain-Comfrey has been canceled. The Trojans close the regular season at 8-14.
“I was really glad to see that we had to finish it on defense. We got a big rebound there at the end and just battled on defense,” Keaveny said. “That was key for us because our defense really sets the tone for our offense so that we can create opportunities for ourselves.”
When asked whether the win was the Trojans’ most complete effort of the season, Coach Keaveny’s answer was a resounding and easy “yes”.
“Tonight we wanted to focus on playing hard for 36 minutes. I thought we accomplished that goal of not letting up,” he said. “By far, this was our most complete game and our biggest win so far. You want to be playing your best at tournament time, so hopefully we’ll continue to improve and look for ways to get even better.”
MCW 38 65
Worthington 36 68
MARTIN COUNTY WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Faber 2-6-3-21, Sinn 0-7-3-17, Weber 2-3-2-14, Echmann 3-0-0-9, Biehn 1-0-1-4. Totals 8-16-9-65.
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) —Potter 3-4-3-20, Grafing 3-3-1-16, Dudley 0-3-6-12, Wolyniec 0-4-2-10, Guerra 1-0-2-5, Lindner 0-1-0-2, Weg 0-0-2-2, Gray 0-0-1-1. Totals 7-15-17-68.