WHS GIRLS' BASKETBALL: WHS embraces blue-collar personaWORTHINGTON — Head coach Eric Lindner referred to his basketball team as a “blue-collar” gang.
WORTHINGTON — Head coach Eric Lindner referred to his basketball team as a “blue-collar” gang.
The Worthington girls’ basketball team isn’t ranked in the top-10, it isn’t a team that continuously makes it to the state tournament year after year and it doesn’t have a perfect record.
But the Trojans work hard and that hard work has paid off as of late.
The Trojans are on an eight-game winning streak and won their section Friday to advance to the state tournament.
WHS is traveling to Minneapolis where it will play against Sauk Centre at 8.p.m. at the Target Center Wednesday.
“We’re excited,” WHS forward Megan Juber said. “Just to make it to the state tournament is so great. But we’re not going just to play one game, we want it all.”
The Trojans (20-7) are looking to rely on their defensive efforts and free-throw shooting in the tournament game.
Defense has been a strong point for the team all year, which is key for a squad that’s offensive surges seem to change with each contest.
But Lindner said he hopes that, even if the shots aren’t falling, that the girls will drive to the basket hard and try to get fouled so they can shoot from the line — something that has been successful as of late.
And with an eight-game winning streak on the line, Lindner knows the Trojans are peaking at just the right time of the season.
“I think they’ve grown with confidence each game,” Lindner said. “I think at some point they’re going, ‘This might be for real.’ We’ve overcome the adversity and that’s kind of how you tell you’re peaking at the right time because those mistakes you made before, you’re not doing now.”
The Mainstreeters (25-4) are on a nine-game win streak and have gone 18-2 in their last 20 contests.
They are making their third-straight appearance in the state tournament, where they came away with a third-place finish last year.
Sauk Centre is led by senior Kali Peschel — who will play for Iowa next year — who averages 14.1 points per game. Junior Macy Weller averages 15.8 points per game for the Mainstreeters as well.
But the Trojans have a threat of their own in Mackenzie Gerber. The senior leads WHS with 17.7 points, nine rebounds and five steals per game.
She is considered by many as the most consistent player on Worthington’s squad.
“Mackenzie, the nice thing about her is she’s matured as a leader,” Lindner said. “She’s doing what she needs to do. Some nights she has a lot of assists and on other nights she scores a lot. I think she’s brought a sense of consistency to what we do. When we need a basket we seem to go to her and she answers the call. What else can you say about her? She’s had a monster year.”
Worthington is making its eighth overall appearance at the state tournament, and its first since 2009. The seniors on the team now were freshmen the last time the team made the trek to Minneapolis.
And although every trip to state is a memorable one, qualifying during their senior year makes this trip extra special for Gerber, Kristen Andersen, Juber and Bernadette Boever.
“It’s exciting to be able to go your senior year,” Andersen said. “It’s great to make it to state anytime, but for it to be the last games you’ll play in high school is pretty awesome.”
The Worthington coaches have been trying to keep practices as normal as possible this week to keep the Trojans grounded heading into state.
They want the girls to be proud of how far they’ve made it, but the coaches don’t want to hype up the tournament so much that the Trojans play as if every possession is their last.
And since Worthington and Sauk Centre haven’t played at all this season and don’t know that much about each other, Lindner is expecting the Trojans to not get caught up in the unknown and stay focused on what they know they can do.
“It’s about going out there and playing as hard as you can and hope you come out with a win,” Lindner said. “We’re peaking at the right time, we’re playing our best basketball at the end of the season which is what we wanted to do.
“They understand that if they’re going to get anywhere they’re going to have to give it everything they’ve got.”
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335