Next stop for WHS: State tournamentMARSHALL — Finishing the game on a 13-2 run Friday evening, the ever-hustling Worthington Trojans earned a trip to the 2012 Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) girls’ state tournament with a 55-48 victory over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in the Section 3AA championship at the R/A facilty on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Marshall.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
MARSHALL — Finishing the game on a 13-2 run Friday evening, the ever-hustling Worthington Trojans earned a trip to the 2012 Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) girls’ state basketball tournament with a 55-48 victory over Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in the Section 3AA championship at the R/A facilty on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Marshall.
Trailing by four points, 46-42, with five minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the fast-paced, exciting contest — the Trojans mounted a gallant comeback and qualified for next week’s elite event for the first time since 2009.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” exclaimed a very happy WHS senior forward Bernadette Boever, who claimed eight rebounds in the game and sank two clutch free throws with 32 seconds left which gave the Trojans a three-point edge, 51-48.
“I was on the team three years ago as a freshman, but this is so much better because this time I am a real part of it, being physically out there on the court. We did it, but it wasn’t easy.”
It sure wasn’t.
The Knights, who won the section’s North Sub-Section title with a trio of victories and came into the contest with a sparkling 25-3 overall record, uncorked an impressive 12-0 run over a span of 4:50, changing a 42-34 deficit into a 46-42 lead.
Several fastbreak baskets, along with strong offensive rebounding, triggered LCWM’s final surge.
But, the Trojans — as they have done all season — responded with the game-winning burst and will play at Target Çenter Wednesday (8 p.m.) against Section 6AA champion Sauk Centre.
“These girls have displayed a never-say-quit atttitude,” praised veteran WHS head coach Eric Lindner about his team. “Our senior leadership has been outstanding and our team depth continues to help us in these close games, which this one certainly was.”
“This really was a good competitive game with its share of excitement by both teams. Our kids just stayed with it, kept scrapping and we came up with the ball several times through tips and deflections, as we just did not give up.”
The senior duo of Kristen Andersen and Mackenzie Gerber combined for 39 of Worthington’s points and helped the Trojans shoot a remarkable 85 percent (17 of 20) at the free throw line.
“I didn’t know we shot them (free throws) that well,” said Andersen, who made eight-of-nine, including two-of-two with 23 seconds left. “I just know this (heading to the state tournament) feels awesome.”
Andersen scored Worthington’s first seven points and had netted 13 before sitting down with her third foul with 2:21 to play in the first half.
Less than a minute into the second half, Andersen dialed in her second 3-pointer of the game, which snapped a 24-24 halftime deadlock and put the Trojans back in the lead.
Andersen finished the game with 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. She sliced through LCWM’s zone defense and converted a basket which knotted the score at 46-all with 3:43 left in the second half.
Gerber, meanwhile, blocked a trio of shots, passed for five assists, claimed four steals, pulled down eight rebounds and scored 19 timely points for WHS.
“Basketball is in our blood,” declared Gerber about the Trojans. “We just keep fighting and if we screw up, we seem to find a way to get the ball back and do something good.”
Late in the game, after Andersen’s basket had tied the score and a free throw by sophomore Abbie Landgaard had given Worthington a 47-46 lead at the 3:21 mark, it was Gerber who converted a nifty six-foot turnaround baseline jumper — after making a ball fake to the middle.
Gerber’s basket put the Trojans up by three, 49-46, with 2:28 on the clock.
LCWM answered with a driving basket by freshman forward Megan Schroeder (14 points, six rebounds) and with 1:48 to play, it was a one-point game.
After working the ball for 50 seconds, Worthington was called for traveling and the Knights had the ball back.
But not for long.
Applying fullcourt pressure, Trojan senior guard Megan Juber — who had been whistled for the travel on the preceeding possession — showed her grit and resiliency by stuffing the pass on LCWM’s next chance with the ball.
Gerber came up with the loose ball and 12 seconds later, Boever sank her two free throws and Worthington was up by three.
“I just knew we had to lay it on the line,” described Juber about her key defensive play. I was going to work hard to get the ball back to make up for the travel and it worked out, as Mackenzie picked the ball up after I knocked it down.
“I am just so excited about winning this game and getting to play with my teammates at the state ––tournament.”
After Boever and Andersen each sank their free throws, extending the lead to five, Gerber clinched the verdict with a pair of her own with 10 seconds remaining.
The Trojans will take a 20-7 record to Minneapolis, having won 10 of their last 11 games.
“We’re playing our best now,” summed up Andersen. “We want to hit our spark at the end of the season and I think we’re really doing that.”
“Winning 20 games is the measure of a good season,” said Lindner, who has had his share of such campaigns over the past decade. “We sure would like to win three more, but the competition level at the state tournament is really outstanding. But, our girls will play hard, you can count on that.”
Trojans claim three five-point first-half leads
Megan Schroeder scored the game’s first four points, but the Trojans got on the board on a beautiful play from Gerber to Landgaard (backdoor cut) who bounced an assist pass to Andersen for an easy bucket at the 15:42 mark.
A three-point play by Andersen off a hard drive down the lane, gave WHS a 5-4 edge with 14:07 on the clock and after Megan Schroeder scored again (assist Breanna Denn), the Trojans rattled off six straight points to claim an 11-6 lead.
Andersen sank two free throws, Gerber scored off a spin move and K.C. Riley scored on a breakaway layup as WHS found its rhythm.
But LCWM senior center Karina Schroeder, a powerful force near the basket, scored on a putback, giving an indication of things to come.
To the delight of the large group of Trojan fans, Andersen drew a charge at the 9:37 mark, but Worthington came up empty on several possessions.
Two free throws and another putback by Karina Schroeder (23 points, 15 rebounds) swung the edge back to the Knights, 12-11.
A bucket by Gerber and a 3-pointer by Andersen lifted the Trojans to a four-point lead, 16-12, with 7:23 to play in the half.
Karina Schroeder scored again (assist Heather Hohenstein), but Gerber knocked down a 3-pointer and WHS had its second five-point lead, 19-14.
A pair of free throws by Andersen offset two shots from the line by Karina Schroeder and a beautiful pull-up jumper by the ever-athletic Tara Roelofs, making the score 21-18.
After another free throw by Andersen and two by Karina Schroeder, the Trojans had a 22-20 edge with 2:21 remaining in the half.
LCWM’s Mckenzie Schaffer tied the score with a 17-footer from the left corner and with 1:24 on the clock, the Knights recaptured the lead when Karina Schroeder scored after another offensive rebound.
The Trojans closed out the first-half scoring on a nicely-executed 3-on-2 fastbreak as Gerber tossed a dandy pass to Riley for a layup with 20 seconds to go.
“K.C. came in twice and gave us a spark,” praised Lindner. “That was a nice way to end an action-packed first half.”
Kemper’s 3-pointer caps WHS 13-5 second-half run
Andersen’s quick 3-pointer started the second-half scoring, but a bucket by Karina Schroeder (assist Roelofs) and one of two free throws by the LCWM star knotted the score at 27.
A step back 2-pointer by Gerber gave the Trojans the edge, but Megan Schroeder’s basket tied the contest at 29-all.
Juber sank a pair of free throws, putting WHS up, 31-29, with 14:29 on the clock.
Hohenstein converted a three-point play after claiming an offensive rebound, giving the Knights a 32-31 lead.
But the Trojans quickly responded as Gerber scored inside (assist Lydia Kemper) and the right-handed Juber scored on a left-handed putback, giving Worthington a 35-32 advantage.
After Megan Schroeder’s rebound basket closed the gap to one, the Trojans rattled off seven straight points to open up an eight-point lead — the largest spead of the game.
Gerber scored on a nifty move down low — after snagging an offensive rebound — and then Kemper sank an 18-footer from the right corner, pushing the margin to five, 39-34, with 11:11 on the clock.
Exactly a minute later, Kemper connected on a top-of-the-key 3-pointer and the lead was eight, 42-34.
The Knights, however, quickly came back.
From Kemper’s trey with 10:11 showing until the 5:21 mark, LCWM took advantage of missed long shots by the Trojans and converted several fastbreaks, surging with a 12-0 run to take a 46-42 lead.
Two free throws by Gerber finally ended Worthington’s scoring drought, as Karina Schroeder went to the bench with her fourth foul.
Just a few seconds later, with 4:52 on the clock, Roelofs — who missed several weeks of the season with an injured knee — hurt the same leg and had to be helped off the floor.
She did not return and the Knights missed her presence on the court.
LCWM held its 46-44 lead for another 69 seconds, before Andersen drove the lane and tied the score, setting up the game’s finish — which featured a six-of-eight free throw performance by the Trojans, a basket by Gerber and Juber’s last-minute defensive gem.
Worthington 24 31 — 55
LCWM 24 24 — 48
WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Juber 0-1-2-4, Landgaard 0-0-1-1, Kemper 1-1-0-5, Gerber 1-6-4-19, Riley 0-2-0-4, Andersen 2-3-8-20, B. Boever 0-0-2-2. Totals 4-13-17-55.
LCWM (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Schaffer 0-1-0-2, Denn 0-0-2-2, Hohenstein 0-2-1-5, K. Schroeder 0-8-7-23, M. Schroeder 0-7-0-14, Roeloffs 0-1-0-2. Totals 0-18-10.