WHS BOYS' BASKETBALL: Trojans headed to state with 64-43 win over CardsMARSHALL — Senior student manager Bradley Jansma cut down the final strings of the net Thursday night for a special moment during the Worthington Trojans’ post-game celebration at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
MARSHALL — Senior student manager Bradley Jansma cut down the final strings of the net Thursday night for a special moment during the Worthington Trojans’ post-game celebration at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.
Jansma, who has been Worthington’s manager for the last four seasons, was full of pride and joy after watching the South sub-section champion Trojans claim a huge 64-43 victory over the North sub-section champion Redwood Valley Cardinals in the Section 3AA high school boys’ basketball championship game.
“This is a great feeling,” said Jansma, who will be on-hand when the Trojans play in their first state tournament game since 1998. “I’ve watched these guys play a lot of basketball over the last four years and we came so close to going to state in both 2009 and 2011. It’s been a dream for the senior players and I to make it, so this is really special for us and the rest of the team.”
Worthington, which improves to 21-6 overall, will play in the Class AA state tournament quarterfinals Wednesday night at either Target Center or Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The Trojans’ opponent and starting time will not be determined until this weekend when the seedings and pairings are announced.
“We are a family on a mission right now, and we’re not done yet,” Worthington head coach Ron Vorwald said after the game. “What a tremendous performance by our guys tonight, as I am so happy for them — they are just a great group to coach, from top to bottom. Everybody played well and did a terrific job in contributing to this win, as we get to have practice tomorrow (today) and look forward to the opportunities ahead next week.”
The Trojans utilized the same formula — outstanding team defense along with superior size, strength and rebounding prowess — Thursday night that they used during the previous three playoff games to knock off the state-ranked and highly-touted Cardinals, who end a sensational season with a record of 26-2.
Morgan Traylor (26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) and Mitch Weg (16 points, 12 rebounds) were relentless on the boards on both ends of the floor, and Worthington held Redwood’s Michael Busack to eight points — all in the first half. The Trojans, who jumped out to early leads of 4-0 and 9-4, never trailed all night and outrebounded the Cardinals by a 40-25 margin.
“Defense and rebounding are the things that win big games, and we played tremendous team defense once again,” summed up Vorwald. “Lucas Henning had the primary task of guarding Busack and did a great job of limiting his touches, but he had lots of help from his teammates, too. We talked and switched on screens, stepped off to stop penetration, rotated well, contested shots and got a boatload of rebounds, as I can’t say enough good things about our team defensive effort.”
Henning (eight points, four assists) and Jon Vorwald (six points, four assists) were the other statistical leaders for Worthington, while Marcus Potter added a key basket in the first half. Spencer Grafing and Dan Wetering each knocked down an important 3-pointer, as well, to keep the Trojans in front throughout the game.
Trojans take quick lead, up 26-23 at halftime
Weg sank two free throws after drawing a foul for the game’s first points 70 seconds in, while Henning fed Traylor for a hoop down low to give Worthington a 4-0 lead with 16:09 remaining in the first half.
Busack hit a fadeaway shot from the right block and then passed to Alec Koster (team-high 19 points) for a layup, as Redwood evened the score at four with 14:16 on the clock.
Vorwald swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key (Weg assist) before Henning passed to Traylor for a breakaway layup, as the Trojans took a 9-4 lead with 11:22 showing.
Busack scored two straight baskets — the first on a pump fake and drive in the lane and the second on a tip-in — before interior baskets by Potter (Traylor assist) and Weg (strong offensive-rebound chance) put Worthington back up by five (13-8) with 7:49 to go.
Redwood continued to stay close and was within one twice (17-16 and 19-18). Busack took a pass from Koster on a backdoor cut along the left baseline and delivered a two-handed dunk for what turned out to be his final points at the 3:02 mark.
But Traylor supplied a putback basket and made a high-low pass to Weg for a bucket in the paint to make it 23-18, and Grafing buried a 3-pointer from out top to give the Trojans a 26-20 advantage with 22 seconds left.
Koster countered with a long 3-pointer from the right wing with four seconds to go, trimming the halftime gap to 26-23.
“We played a good first half, but we knew that we could play even better in the second half,” Weg said. “We talked in the locker room about coming out and playing even harder, which I think helped a lot. We stepped up to the challenge, that’s for sure.”
13-0 burst puts Worthington in driver’s seat
Traylor, who poured in 18 points in the second half, scored Worthington’s first 10 points coming out of the break. Henning and Vorwald gave Traylor nice feeds for two of his first three baskets in that span, as the Trojans took a 32-25 lead by the 15:52 mark.
“We knew that we had to play hard and get the ball inside,” Traylor said. “I just worked hard to get position and my teammates got the ball to me. I tried to be aggressive and it worked out well.”
Beau Stough (12 points) netted one of two free throws and provided a second-chance basket to help Redwood pull to within four (32-28) with 11:15 remaining, but Worthington answered with an impressive 13-0 run — highlighted by nine consecutive defensive stops — to bust things open.
Traylor scored on an interior bounce pass from Weg and leaped high for an offensive-rebound basket for the first four points of that burst. Henning then found Wetering for a big right-wing 3-pointer off a loose-ball scramble to give the Trojans a 39-28 lead with 8:12 to go.
“I was wide open and had to hit that shot,” Wetering said. “That was a big run for us and this is my favorite basketball memory, as we played really well to beat a very good team and reached our goal.”
Traylor continued to spark Worthington after that, tracking down a long defensive rebound and going coast-to-coast in the open court — pulling up and meshing a short jump shot for a 41-28 lead. Weg followed with an offensive-rebound basket and another hoop in the paint, capping the 13-0 surge and giving the Trojans a 45-28 lead with 6:16 showing.
“Morgan was stellar tonight,” Ron Vorwald said. “Both him and Mitch are relentless going after rebounds and loose balls. They each played very well on both ends of the court, just like they have been all season long.”
Worthington led by at least 15 points the rest of the way, as Weg passed to Traylor for a slick press-breaker hoop to counter a basket underneath by Stough that snapped Redwood’s scoring drought (11:15 to 5:30).
A leaner in the lane by Weg, a layup off a steal by Jon Vorwald and two free throws by Traylor made it 53-32 with 4:06 remaining. Henning then scored all eight of his points from the free-throw line in the last three minutes to help the Trojans — who won the second half 38-20 — secure a 64-43 victory.
“This has been our dream and we had to work hard for this,” Henning said. “We played great defense again and focused on shutting them down, as we held them to a season-low 43 points.”
“We’ve been working hard on defense all year,” Jon Vorwald added. “We did everything that we worked on in practice and came out with a big win.”
This will be the fourth trip to the state tournament for Worthington, with the three previous appearances coming in 1921, 1994 and 1998. Current assistant coach Clint Meyer was a standout junior post player on the Trojans’ 1998 team.
“These guys have sacrificed some things and play together extremely well,” Ron Vorwald said. “I’m so proud of everybody for their commitment and determination to do the little things that are necessary to win basketball games. We are going to enjoy this tonight and then get back to work.”
WHS 26 38 — 64
RV 23 20 — 43
WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Vorwald 1-1-1-6, Henning 0-0-8-8, Potter 0-1-0-2, Wetering 1-0-0-3, Traylor 0-11-4-26, Grafing 1-0-0-3, Weg 0-6-4-16. Totals: 3-19-17-64.
RV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Fischer 0-1-0-2, Busack 0-4-0-8, Ford 0-0-2-2, Koster 2-3-7-19, Stough 1-4-1-12. Totals: 3-12-10-43.