TROJAN BOYS BASKETBALL: Cardinals defeat TrojansWORTHINGTON — Jumping out to an early 26-9 lead in the first half and later ripping off 19 consecutive points in an impressive stretch midway through the second half Friday night, the Redwood Valley Cardinals earned a 79-69 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a key Southwest Conference boys’ basketball game on ‘Meet the Trojans’ Night at Worthington High School.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Jumping out to an early 26-9 lead in the first half and later ripping off 19 consecutive points in an impressive stretch midway through the second half Friday night, the Redwood Valley Cardinals earned a 79-69 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a key Southwest Conference boys’ basketball game on ‘Meet the Trojans’ Night at Worthington High School.
Alec Koster scored 23 of his game-high 27 points in the first half to spark the Cardinals, who improve to 9-2 overall and now stand alone in third place in the league standings with a 4-2 mark.
“It’s always big when you can get a win at Worthington,” Redwood head coach Markus Okeson said after the game. “You know it’s a tough place to play and you know Worthington always has a good team. We started and finished well, but the Trojans outplayed us in the middle portion of the game.”
Worthington (7-4, 3-3; fourth place) put together a 22-7 surge late in the first half to get back in contention — trimming a 26-9 deficit to 33-31 — and then outscored Redwood 8-4 to begin the second half. That gave the Trojans a 44-42 lead with 14 minutes and 53 seconds remaining after they trailed 38-36 at halftime.
However, the Trojans didn’t score again until the 9:17 mark — allowing the Cardinals to build a 61-44 advantage after pouring in 19 straight points over a dominant four-minute span.
“We got what we deserved tonight, as we simply didn’t show up ready to play,” Worthington head coach Ron Vorwald said. “Redwood is obviously a good team and give them lots of credit, but we didn’t play very well — especially early on. We dug ourselves a big hole and tried to work our way back, but it wasn’t enough.”
Koster and the Cardinals came out on fire, building quick leads that included 3-0, 9-3, 16-5, 22-7 and 26-9 within the game’s opening eight minutes. Koster buried three straight 3-pointers from the right wing in the first two minutes.
Mitchell Fischer (21 points) then knocked down a transition 3-pointer from the top of the key before Koster scored on a drive and an offensive-rebound opportunity — giving him 13 of the Cardinals’ initial 16 points.
Redwood’s Thane Widmer (six points) followed with a nifty tip-in basket, prompting a Trojans’ timeout with the scoreboard reading 18-7 Cardinals and 12:06 to play.
“We didn’t guard people and we didn’t rebound,” Vorwald said. “You’re not going to win too many games when you don’t do those two things and that’s what happened for us in this game.”
Redwood stayed in command out of the break. Fischer took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a hoop, Jordan Ford (10 points) ran the floor for a fast-break bucket, Adam Hengel (nine points) provided a putback basket, and Koster drilled a 17-foot pull-up jumper to make it 26-9 at the 10:04 mark.
“We are a small, quick team and we used that to our advantage,” Okeson said. “We like to spread the court and either get to the hoop or hit the outside shot. We shot well coming out of the gate and also were able to get some offensive rebounds when we missed.”
The Cardinals started to miss more frequently over the next several minutes, as the Trojans changed defensive tactics and slowly climbed back into the game.
Worthington utilized a 1-2-2 zone and began to get some of its shots to fall on the other end, as well. Marcus Potter (20 points, five assists) and Morgan Traylor (16 points, nine rebounds) each scored on sweet moves to help jumpstart the Trojans.
Spencer Grafing (12 points, four assists) connected on a 3-pointer from out top and also scored on a cut underneath the hoop, as Josh Vander Veen (eight points, four assists) made a nice pass to help Worthington pull within 31-22 with 5:50 to go.
Traylor then scored twice in a row, with the first bucket coming via an alley-oop baseline out-of-bounds pass from Vander Veen for a big two-handed dunk. Will Mulder’s high-low feed to Traylor for an interior basket came next to make it 33-26.
Vander Veen swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Potter took a steal in for a layup to cap Worthington’s 22-7 run and trim the gap to two (33-31) at the 3:06 mark — forcing a Cardinals’ timeout.
Redwood countered with five straight points, as Koster scored on a backside offensive-rebound chance and meshed his fifth 3-pointer of the half to make it 38-31.
Potter came back with a basket off a baseline drive and then set up Vander Veen for a long 3-pointer from the right wing with 38 seconds to play, as the score was 38-36 at the intermission.
“We switched to the zone defense late in the first half and that was effective,” Vorwald said. “We played with a little more energy and got some stops, which we turned into good possessions on the offensive end to work our way back.”
Potter started the second half with assists to Traylor (basket down low) and Grafing (3-pointer in the left corner) to help give the Trojans their first lead of the game at 42-41 with 15:45 remaining.
Worthington later held a 44-42 lead after Potter passed to Will Dudley for a basket in the paint at the 14:53 mark, but the Trojans didn’t score again for over five minutes.
Redwood got several consecutive defensive stops and scored in bunches, beginning with a 3-pointer in the right corner by Fischer to give the Cardinals a 45-44 lead.
Hengel had the assist on that play and then scored the next seven points to make it 52-44 at the 12:20 mark. Hengel scored on a pair of drives and netted a 3-pointer, as Redwood began to regain control of the action.
Superior ball movement was also a fixture in the Cardinals’ 19-0 run, as Widmer’s nifty touch pass to Fischer for a basket down low preceded a left-wing 3-pointer by Koster — his sixth trey of the game — to extend the gap to 57-44 with 11:19 on the clock.
R.J. Juell (six points) and Ford added hoops to increase the margin to 61-44 with 10:04 to go before Dylan Gravenhof snapped the Trojans’ long scoring drought with a free throw at the 9:17 mark.
“That was certainly a key stretch for us, and it started on the defensive end,” Okeson said. “We did a nice job of taking some things away from Worthington. And offensively, we had a little more balance with some other guys stepping up and hitting a few shots.”
Redwood maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way and was up 79-61 with 1:41 remaining. Fischer and Ford each hit a 3-pointer in the closing minutes to give the Cardinals — who were 10-for-14 from the free-throw line — a total of 11 makes from beyond the arc.
Mulder and Carter Lindner each scored on an offensive-rebound opportunity late in the game for the Trojans. Brandon Gray delivered a 3-point play, and Randy Traylor fired in a left-wing 3-pointer to help Worthington close the final gap to 79-69.
Worthington hosts Fulda Monday, while Redwood is at St. Croix Lutheran today.
Redwood Valley 79,
REDWOOD VALLEY (9-2, 4-2): Widmer 2 2-2 6, Ford 4 1-3 10, Koster 10 1-3 27, Hengel 4 0-0 9, Fischer 7 4-4 21, Juell 2 2-2 6. Totals: 29 10-14 79.
WORTHINGTON (7-4, 3-3): Gray 1 1-1 3, Vander Veen 3 0-0 8, Dudley 1 0-0 2, Potter 8 4-5 20, Gravenhof 0 1-2 1, Mulder 1 0-0 2, M. Traylor 7 2-7 16, Grafing 4 1-2 12, R. Traylor 1 0-0 3, Lindner 1 0-0 2. Totals: 27 9-17 69.
Redwood Valley 38 41 — 79
Worthington 36 33 — 69
3-Point Goals: Redwood Valley 11 (Koster 6, Fischer 3, Ford, Hengel); Worthington 6 (Grafing 3, Vander Veen 2, R. Traylor). Rebounds: Redwood Valley 30; Worthington 23 (M. Traylor 9). Turnovers: Redwood Valley 15; Worthington 12.