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Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Worthington's Kaitlin Gerber (right) shoots over the outstretched arm of Mankato West's Ashley Veroeven during Saturday's Section 2AAA girls' basketball semifinal game in Mankato.

PREP GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Trojans advance to Section 2AAA finals

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MANKATO -- Entering Saturday's Section 2AAA semifinal girls' basketball game, the Trojans were nervous.

Despite narrowly defeating Mankato West earlier in the season, Worthington still had nerves before it took the floor at the Taylor Center on the campus of Minnesota State, Mankato.

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As it turned out, the Trojans had nothing to worry about.

Top-seeded Worthington put on an offensive and defensive clinic in an 84-49 dismantling of the Scarlets to advance to the Section 2AAA finals.

"I was not expecting that," Worthington guard Holli Aggen said. "I was expecting a close game. We were all biting our nails coming into the game, knowing it was going to be good. We only won by seven the first game."

The Trojans (23-2) defeated West 64-57 Feb. 12.

"Our defense was a lot better this time," Aggen said. "Last time they beat us a lot on the cuts, and (the coaches) nailed the shuffle cutter into us all week saying, 'You have to beat the cutter, you have to beat the cutter.' This time we actually did it, where last time we were just like yeah, yeah, OK, but we never really did it. This time we took pride in our defense."

Worthington forced 22 West turnovers, while only giving the ball away seven times.

"We played very poorly," MW head coach Dianne Johns said. "We allowed Worthington to set the tempo and we tried to keep up with their pace for some reason. It just doesn't work for our team to run and gun like that. It was a very disappointing performance on our part."

Both teams wanted to control the tempo, and early on, it was the Scarlets who were playing at their pace.

In the first eight minutes, the Trojans had scored nine points and had a three-point lead.

From there, Worthington put the game away.

Aggen hit a trey from the left corner, Rachel Malmgren connected on a free throw and Gabby Boever sank a pair of foul shots to give Worthington a 15-6 advantage.

A minute and a half later, Aggen was mixing it up inside with West's best player.

Fighting with Mankato West's Abby Rothenbuehler for a rebound, Aggen was able to force a jumpball. However, Rothenbuehler felt she was fouled on the play.

"She turned around and was like, 'Get off my back,"' Aggen said. "So I said OK, settle down. She started yelling at me, I was like, 'OK.' Then the ref came in and said, '23 settle down.' Then she came back in the next time she said, 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have freaked out like that.'"

By that point, the Scarlets were nearly out of the game.

Aggen's trey started a 17-1 run for Worthington as it opened up a 26-7 lead.

"We got a few good outlet passes and we beat them down the floor a few times in a row," Aggen said. "Once we got up by 15, I think they got down on themselves."

The Trojans finished the half on a 38-11 run and had a 47-17 lead at the break.

"It didn't matter what kind of combination I had on the floor," Johns said. "It just wasn't going to work."

Leading by 30 at the break, the Trojans were in a good position going into the second half.

"When we were up by 30 in the first half, I was pretty confident," Aggen said. "They didn't even score 30 points in the first half, so I was hoping we wouldn't blow a 30-point lead in the second half."

However, in the first three minutes of the second half, it looked like West was going to make a game of it.

Katie Lauer scored a pair of baskets to spark a 12-2 run in the first three minutes of the second half, cutting the deficit to 20 points, 49-29.

"I think we came in a little overconfident," Aggen said. "I say we kind of took it for granted. We needed to realize that the game isn't over yet, they could still come back."

Kaitlin Gerber (12 points) and Martha Alwal (10 points, 13 rebounds) each hit a basket to get the Trojans back on track.

Leading by 21, Worthington went on an 11-0 run to put the game out of reach en route to an 84-49 victory.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Trojans, led by Aggen's 18 points. Kayla Vander Veen scored 16, while Boever finished with 15.

"(Kayla) was on fire," Worthington head coach Eric Lindner said. "She is the kind of kid that excels in the open court game. When she gets the ball, it's going. It doesn't matter if there are three girls down there from the other team, she's going right at the rack. That's what we like about her, she's so aggressive to the ball."

Rothenbuehler, who scored 22 points against Worthington earlier in the year, was the only Scarlet in double figures. She finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds.

"I thought we did a nice job on her," Lindner said. "What we did was take away their cuts to the basket. They ran like a Colorado Shuffle, and we did a pretty nice job with that."

Facing a relentless defense, West shot 18 percent in the first half and finished 19 of 68 from the field (28 percent).

Worthington will face Willmar at Minnesota State University, Mankato at 7 p.m. Thursday.

"Worthington has a good club, I give them all the credit in the world," Johns said. "They deserve to be in the championship game after their performance (Saturday)."

MW 17 32 -- 49

WHS 47 37 -- 84

MW (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Lauer 0-3-0-6, Rosenstiel 1-3-0-9, Rothenbuehler 1-4-1-12, Henke 0-1-0-2, Doyle 1-1-2-7, Christiansen 0-1-2-4, Veroeven 1-1-0-5, Zielske 0-1-0-2, Buseth 0-0-2-2. Totals 4-15-7-49.

WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Alwal 0-5-0-10, K. Gerber 0-5-2-12, G. Boever 0-4-7-15, Aggen 3-1-7-18, Malmgren 0-1-3-5, Vander Veen 2-5-0-16, Schroeder 1-0-0-3, M. Gerber 1-0-1-4, B. Boever 0-0-1-1. Totals 7-21-21-84.

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