WHS GIRLS' BASKETBALL: Trojans cruise by Arrows 57-39JACKSON — Surging with a 17-2 run, including 14 straight points, to finish the first half Friday evening, the top-seeded Worthington Trojans rallied to take a 32-22 halftime lead on the fifth-seeded Pipestone Area Arrows and claim a hard-fought, 57-39, victory in the semifinals of the Section 3AA South high school girls’ basketball tournament.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — Surging with a 17-2 run, including 14 straight points, to finish the first half Friday evening, the top-seeded Worthington Trojans rallied to take a 32-22 halftime lead on the fifth-seeded Pipestone Area Arrows and claim a hard-fought, 57-39, victory in the semifinals of the Section 3AA South high school girls’ basketball tournament.
The win by the Trojans — which certainly didn’t come easy — advances WHS to the sub-section championship game, which is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Jackson Monday.
Worthington (18-7) will tangle with third-seeded Fairmont (14-9), as the Cardinals advanced with a 48-38 semifinal win over Windom.
Mackenzie Gerber, a hard-working 5-8 senior forward, had another stellar game for the Trojans Friday. She finished the game with 19 points, six steals, six assists and five rebounds.
“She does everything for us,” praised WHS head coach Eric Lindner. “Mackenzie is a very steady player for us on both ends of the court.”
But Gerber was not the only player who excelled in the intensely-played contest, which featured its share of physical play and impressive rallies by each team.
PA’s senior center, Kayla Stout — who just recently joined the Arrows after successful knee surgery — was a force inside, scoring 17 points and snagging six rebounds.
Stout scored 11 points in the first half, as she helped PA claim early leads of 4-0 and 12-5.
Katie Litka scored nine points for the Arrows, blocked two shots, had a pair of steals and claimed a team-high 11 rebounds.
Amanda Haupert, who connected on a 3-pointer which gave the Arrows a 20-15 lead with 5:27 to play in the first half, dished off three assists and had a trio of steals for PA, while Cassie Evans contributed seven rebounds and five timely second-half points.
The Trojans, meanwhile, received stellar defensive performances from both Kristen Andersen (game-high 12 rebounds) and Megan Juber, who were assigned the difficult tasks of guarding Stout and Litka, respectively.
“Juber did a wonderful job on Litka,” praised Lindner. “She (Litka) can light it up, but Megan just had great pressure on her and did not allow to get many good shots off.
“And my, oh my, did Kristen work hard inside to keep the ball away from Stout the best she could, doing an especially good job on her in the second half — matching her physicalness.”
Then there was the first-half offensive spark provided — off the bench — by Lydia Kemper (eight points) and the clutch late-game free throw shooting of Abbie Landgaard (eight points, five rebounds) which helped the Trojans.
The Boever sisters — Bernadette and Ana — each knocked down key first-half 3-pointers and then Bernadette converted a pair of strong offensive rebound putbacks in the second half which stretched Worthington’s lead.
K.C. Riley contributed a key first-half basket for the Trojans when they were down, 12-5.
“This was a typical Pipestone vs. Worthington game,” declared Lindner. “It was physical and very intense. We needed good performances from lots of girls and we got it.
“We contested shots and blocked out well on defense. Offensively, we took care of the ball — we only had eight turnovers the whole game, that’s really good.”
The Trojans, meanwhile, forced 21 PA turnovers and pieced together strong scoring runs in each half.
Four Worthington players connected on a 3-point shot in the first half and seven Trojans scored prior to intermission, helping WHS build its 10-point lead.
Kemper scores seven points in 81 seconds
Trailing 20-15 after Haupert’s 3-pointer, the Trojans needed a spark.
Kemper, a lightning-fast 5-6 junior guard, provided that.
She converted a spectular layup — through traffic — at the 4:33 mark, slicing PA’s lead to 20-17.
Then, 46 seconds later, Kemper drilled a 3-pointer which knotted the score at 20-all.
Following an Arrows’ timeout, Kemper stole the inbounds pass and converted a breakaway layup with 3:12 on the clock, putting the Trojans ahead, 22-20.
“Lydia sure provided that offensive spark that we needed,” praised Lindner. “Those were seven quick points and we went from being down five to going up by two.”
The two-point lead didn’t last long.
After a Trojans’ defensive stop, the ever-versatile Gerber sank a step-back 3-pointer from the top of the key and WHS was up five, 25-20, at the 2:31 mark.
A sweet drive through the lane by Andersen increased the advantage to 27-20, 46 seconds later.
“We were scoring and we were also getting defensive stops,” noted Lindner about Worthington’s first-half surge.
After Juber forced a loose ball, Gerber was fouled and sank two free throws, giving the Trojans a 29-20 lead with 38 seconds remaining in the half.
The Arrows finally snapped their five-minute scoring drought when Jamie Lentz fired a perfect pass to Kelly Nettik for a basket.
But the Trojans quickly answered with a 3-pointer by freshman Ana Boever — with three seconds left — to take a 10-point cushion into intermission.
“Worthington has a lot of firepower,” declared veteran PA head coach Jay Johnson. “We did the best we could and our kids worked hard, but it was hard to maintain a consistent level of play against the Trojans, who hit some timely shots and came up with big rebounds when they needed them.”
Arrows rally with 12-0 run, slice Trojans’ lead to 38-34 with 8:02 left
Riding the momentum of its 17-2 half-ending burst, the Trojans made it a 23-2 run by scoring the first six points of the second half.
Andersen (assists from Berndette Boever and Gerber) scored the first two baskets and then Gerber converted a coast-to-coast left-handed layup and Worthington’s lead was 38-22 with just over 14 minutes left.
But, the Arrows — who had only scored two points in a nine-minute span —suddenly found their second wind.
Evans fed Stout inside to start PA’s rally.
The aggressive Lentz drew a foul after an offensive rebound and sank a free throw.
Haupert found Stout on a sweet play down the middle and the ever-battling Lentz sank another free throw after yanking down another offensive rebound.
With 10:58 on the clock, after scoring six straight points, Arrows had trimmed the lead back to 10, trailing 38-28.
But they weren’t finished.
A 3-pointer by Litka from the right side, brought the green-and-white to within seven points at the 9:56 mark.
After an exchange of missed shots, a steal by Litka led to a 3-pointer by Evans (assist Stout) and with 8:02 on the clock, the Arrows had capped a 12-0 run and were within four points, 38-34.
Gerber responds, triggers 11-1 run by Trojans
After having not scored for over six minutes, Gerber triggered the game-winning surge for the Trojans, scoring on a drive with 7:38 to play.
A free throw by Kemper, a free throw by Gerber and a huge offensive rebound basket by Bernadette Boever — after a missed free throw — lifted WHS back up 10, 44-34, with just under six minutes to play.
“That was a big basket by Bernadette,” praised Lindner. “She battles on the boards.”
A ball-side hand steal by Gerber resulted in another free throw for Mackenzie.
Litka and Gerber exchanged free throws and with 4:13 to play, Worthington held a 46-35 advantage.
Neither team scored for nearly two minutes before Landgaard — who had connected on a timely first-half 3-pointer for the Trojans — sank a pair of free throws, increasing the lead to 48-35 with 2:25 showing on the clock.
Another free throw by Landgaard, 17 seconds later, capped Worthington’s 11-1 run before a perimeter shot by Evans made the score 49-37.
Single free throws by Juber and Andersen, along with two each by Landgaard and Gerber, stretched the lead to 53-37.
Stout scored on a putback for the Arrows and two free throws by Gerber, followed by another putback hoop by Bernadette Boever closed out the scoring.
The Arrows, who battled injuries throughout the season, finish the campaign with an 11-15 overall record.
PA 22 17 — 39
Worthington 32 25 — 57
PA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Haupert 1-0-0-3, Evans 1-1-0-5, Stout 0-7-3-17, Nettik 0-1-1-3, Litka 2-0-3-9, Lentz 0-0-2-2. Totals 4-9-9-39.
WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) A. Boever 1-0-2-5, Juber 0-0-1-1, Landgaard 1-0-5-8, Kemper 1-2-1-8, Gerber 1-4-8-19, Riley 0-1-0-2, Andersen 0-3-1-7, B. Boever 1-2-0-7. Totals 5-12-18-57.