TROJAN GIRLS BASKETBALL: WHS moves on to Section 3AA title game to take on BOLD
WINDOM -- The Worthington Trojans girls' basketball survived a pair of Martin County West shots in the game's final seconds Friday night that could have either won the game for the second-seeded Mavericks or sent the Section 3AA South Sub-Section championship game into overtime.
Fortunately for top-seeded Worthington, Morgan Williamson's right-corner 3 off an inbounds play underneath the Mavericks' hoop with 5 seconds left was just off the mark and Kate Thiesse's putback attempt from the left block was well-defended by Brooke Henning as the Trojans prevailed with a 52-50 victory.
Worthington improved to 21-5 overall with the win and advanced to the section championship game where the Trojans will play BOLD (25-3), which claimed the Section 3AA North Sub-Section championship Friday in a 56-49 win over Montevideo.
"It comes down, usually in tournament games, to one or two possessions and that was the case (Friday)," WHS head coach Eric Lindner said. "Overall, I think that you like to see a game like this with the kids gutting it out. It was close but we executed at the end."
The Trojans, who struggled with their shooting throughout the game (35 percent from the field on 22 of 63 shooting and 5-for-12 on free throws), scored just two points in the final 8 minutes of the game, but effectively limited the Mavericks' chances down the stretch by being patient and taking care of the ball.
"We played our game and stopped (Martin County West) from playing their game," Henning said. "When it came down to the end, we just stayed disciplined like Coach Lindner told us to do and kept (the Mavericks) from taking shots."
Henning, who scored the Trojans' final points off a quick pass to the right block from Paige Gravenhof with 3:52 left, led Worthington with 17 points. Lydia Kemper added 15 points, while Ana Boever finished with 11, Abbie Landgaard (six assists) had seven and Gravenhof scored two points.
Gravenhof's basket came at a critical time for Worthington as MCW had outscored the Trojans 15-6 in the first 5 ½ minutes of the second half to take a 41-40 lead. The Mavericks answered Gravenhof's basket (a drive through the paint for a 42-41 Trojans' lead with 12:09 left) to take their final lead of the game (43-42) on a Rilley Geistfeld bucket off a Libbie Lange assist with 11:45 remaining.
However, Kemper gave the Trojans the lead for good when she turned a Boever steal into a transition basket at the 10:22 mark. Landgaard added a jumper from the right elbow, Henning scored off a nice pass into the post from Boever and Kemper grabbed a loose ball and pulled up for a 14-footer with 8:13 to go to give Worthington a 50-43 lead before MCW drew within four points after a free throw and a post bucket by Geistfeld with 7:22 left, which prompted the Trojans to slow down the game.
Geistfeld (eight rebounds) and Tumbleson (six steals, five assists), who helped the Mavericks trim the Trojans' game-high lead of 12 (27-15 with 3:48 left in the first half following a Henning make) with seven points in a 90 second span, each finished with 14 points, while Williamson, Thiesse and Libbie Lange each scored six and Madison Larson added four.
"In the first half, we were doing the things that we needed to do," Lindner said. "We were getting some layups and we were being aggressive. In the second half, (Martin County West) played much more aggressive, defensively, and they took the ball to the basket a little more aggressively and that caused us some problems."
Henning said limiting Tumbleson, who had scored 22 points against the Trojans in a 72-58 Mavericks' loss at Worthington on Feb. 12, was a main focus for the Trojans.
"Our main goal was to stop (Tumbleson) from scoring as many points as she had that last time against us," Henning said. "We did a really good job at doing that."
Additionally, the Trojans outrebounded the Mavericks by a 38-31 margin, led by Henning and Boever, who each compiled double-doubles and finished with 12 rebounds each, while Kemper had six boards and Gravenhof collected five caroms.
"Overall, I think what won this game was rebounding," Lindner said. "Brooke and Ana did a nice job on the boards."
"Brooke played more aggressively (Friday) than I've seen all season and that's what we've been trying to get from her. She had a great night."
While Worthington only gathered one more steal than MCW (14-13) and committed the same amount of turnovers (20 for each team), it seemingly was the Trojans who were first to get to loose balls.
Boever (three assists) claimed eight steals for WHS and blocked two shots, while K.C. Riley, Kemper, Gravenhof (five assists) and Rebecca Linder each had a steal in the game.
"We always practice those kinds of plays and we like to take advantage of our team speed and I think that we showed that (Friday night)," Henning added.
Martin County West ended its season with a fine record of 22-5 as the Mavericks were co-champions of the Valley Conference with Mankato Loyola with 11-1 league records.
"I'm so proud of our girls," MCW head coach Rodger Taylor said. "They don't quit and we've battled all year long. Give Worthington a lot of credit, they played well enough to win, but it was a great effort on our part to battle back."
Meanwhile, Worthington has a week to prepare for the section title game with the BOLD Warriors.
"It's really exciting," Henning said of the Trojans advancing to the championship game. "We are going to get ready over the next week to go up to SMSU and play for the championship."
The Section 3AA championship will be played Friday March 8 at 8 p.m. in Marshall at SMSU's R/A Facility.
MARTIN COUNTY WEST 50
MARTIN COUNTY WEST (22-5): Tumbleson 6-13 0-0 14, Williamson 2-5 0-0 6, Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Leiding 0-1 0-0 0, Thiesse 3-7 0-0 6, Geistfeld 5-7 4-6 14, Larson 2-9 0-1 4, Lange 2-6. Totals: 20-50 (40%) 6-9 (33%) 50.
WORTHINGTON (21-5): Boever 4-15 2-5 11, Landgaard 3-7 1-3 7, Henning 8-19 1-2 17, Kemper 6-13 1-2 15, Linder 0-0 0-0 0, Gravenhof 1-8 0-0 2, Riley 0-1 0-0 0, Coriolan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-63 (35%) 5-12 (42%) 52.
Martin County West 26 24 -- 50
Worthington 34 18 -- 52
3-Point Goals: MCW 4-6 (67%) (Tumbleson 2-2, Williamson 2-3, Smith 0-1); WHS 3-13 (23%) (Kemper 2-3, Boever 1-8, Landgaard 0-1, Gravenhof 0-1). Rebounds: MCW 31 (Geistfeld 8); WHS 38 (Boever 12, Henning 12, Kemper 6, Gravenhof 5). Total Fouls (Fouled Out): MCW 15 (None); WHS 15 (None). Technical Fouls: None. Assists: MCW 13 (Tumbleson 5); WHS 16 (Landgaard 5, Gravenhof 5, Boever 3). Steals: MCW 13 (Tumbelson 6); WHS 14 (Boever 8). Blocked Shots: MCW 1 (Thiesse); WHS 4 (Boever 2). Turnovers: MCW 20; WHS 20.