Boys basketball: Trojans overcome early deficit, beat Cardinals
WORTHINGTON — Spreading the basketball around nicely Thursday evening, the Worthington High School boys put together several impressive runs and cruised to an 86-72 Southwest Conference victory over Luverne.
The Trojans overcame a 21-15 first-half deficit with a commanding 21-2 run and later utilized a sizzling 11-4 surge over the opening 1:39 of the second half to stakes themselves to a 54-37 lead with 16:21 to play.
“It was fun,” summed up WHS head coach Jared Keaveny. “We had great balance and we moved the basketball with good passes. When you share the ball the way we did, you create good shots, which we were able to get for ourselves.”
Worthington certainly did get many easy shots, converting on 58 percent (33-of-57) of its two-point field goal attempts — as numerous steals, followed by sharp passes gave the Trojans lots of layups.
Nine Trojans scored in a very balanced first half and by game’s end, 11 players had produced points.
Likewise, the Cardinals (3-17 overall, 0-9 conference) had most of its roster score, as 10 players tallied points.
Josh Slieter, 6-2 senior forward and one of the area’s best all-around athletes, helped the Cardinals earn a 21-15 lead over the game’s first nine minutes. Slieter scored 10 of his game-high 22 points during Luverne’s strong start. He also snagged six rebounds and dished off four assists.
Also playing well for the Cardinals was 6-0 senior forward Blake Ziegler (13 points, game-high seven assists, two steals), who is an excellent passer.
Nicholas Overgaard, a 6-0 sophomore guard, had a couple of steals and drained a trio of three-pointers for Luverne, while 6-2 senior center Zane Hiller (six points, five defensive rebounds, two assists) and 5-10 junior guard Ethan Marshall (team-leading three steals, three points) were other key contributors.
“Luverne plays hard,” praised Keaveny about the Cardinals. “They work their tails off. It took us awhile to overcome their strong start. But that dunk by (Will) Mulder seemed to give us a spark and we played with more energy after that.”
Mulder, a 6-4 junior forward, scored eight early points for the Trojans, capped by an impressive dunk — off an alley-oop pass from Marcus Potter on an inbounds play.
Potter, a 6-0 senior guard, finished the game with 13 points and five assists. His steal and layup at the 6:27 mark of the first half put the Trojans up 26-21.
Six quick points (four-of-four at the free throw line) from 6-4 senior Carter Lindner, along with a perimeter jumper by 6-3 senior guard Spencer Grafing were followed by a steal and driving layup by 5-7 senior guard Jesse Guerra, resulted in a 36-23 lead with 4:02 to play.
Overgaard swished a pair of his three-pointers in the remaining time, as the Cardinals —who have lost seven straight games —battled back to within 10 by intermission, trailing 43-33.
Lindner, Mulder and Grafing each scored eight points in the first half, while Potter tallied seven. Ethan Miller (three), Jake Weg (three), Will Dudley (two), Oliver Wolyniec (two) and Guerra (two) combined for a dozen more Worthington points in the game’s first 18 minutes.
Trojans take command with two strong second-half runs
The Cardinals sprung Slieter for an open layup to start the second half, slicing the gap to 43-35.
But, Grafing (team-high 20 points, four assists) quickly answered with a pull-up jumper, triggering another Trojan run.
Dudley, a 6-2 senior forward, followed with one of his game-high nine steals —which he converted for a layup and a 47-35 WHS advantage.
Mulder (14 points, eight rebounds, three steals) came up with a steal and delivered an assist pass to Potter for a layup and five consecutive points by Grafing, including a three-point play off an offensive rebound, made the score 54-37.
”That was a good spurt,” declared Keaveny. “We played at a high-energy level, which helped us get several easy shots.”
A tremendous pass from Ziegler to 6-0 senior guard Blake Richters for a Luverne basket put the brakes on that Trojan run and a basket by Slieter (assist Ziegler) was followed by a top of the key bucket by the left-handed Hiller. Those three Luverne field goals trimmed the score to 56-43 with 14:53 to play.
But 33 seconds later, the lead was 17 as Dudley scored twice — the second time on a tip-in following another one of his steals.
A bit later, another putback by Grafing upped the spread to 65-43 at the 12:24 mark and then the Trojans scored again on a beautiful play from Potter to Miller to Wolyniec, which capped an overall 24-8 run for Worthington since the Cardinals scored the second-half’s first basket.
Worthington’s Brandon Gray, a 6-0 senior guard, swished a jumper and made a pair of terrific long assist passes (one to Weg and one to Grafing) on the press break to highlight the Trojans’ last burst, which increased the gap to 79-50 with 6:42 left.
A layup by Guerra (off a steal) and a dandy backdoor layup by Potter (assist Dudley) were two of the other key Trojan plays during that surge.
Luverne rallied with a 22-7 run over the game’s closing six minutes, as Slieter converted his second three-point play of the second half, Overgaard hit another trey, and Hiller, Trenton Rops, Tommy Vajgrt and Marshall all scored for the Cardinals, who made 14-of-18 free throws (78 percent) during the game.
Thursday’s win was the second of the season for Worthington (7-10, 6-4) over Luverne. The Trojans won at Luverne Dec. 10 by a 77-49.
Worthington hosts Southwest Christian (17-2) Saturday night. The Eagles defeated Southwestern United 80-66 Thursday for their 12th straight game.
Luverne 33 72
Worthington 43 86
LUVERNE (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Overgaard 3-0-0-9, Marshall 0-1-1-3, Rops 0-2-1-5, Wohnoutka 0-0-2-2, Richters 0-2-0-4, Slieter 0-9-4-22, Siebenahler 0-3-0-6, Ziegler 1-2-6-13, Vajgrt 0-1-0-2, Hiller 0-3-0-6. Totals 4-23-14-72
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Gray 0-1-0-2, Guerra 0-2-0-4, Miller 1-0-0-3, Dudley 0-4-0-8, Grafing 0-9-2-20, Potter 0-4-5-13, Palmer 0-0-2-2, Mulder 0-6-2-14, Wolyniec 0-2-0-4, Lindner 0-2-4-8, Weg 0-3-2-8. Totals 1-33-17-86.