TROJAN BOYS BASKETBALL: Trojans defeat EaglesWORTHINGTON — With Worthington leading 70-58 after Spencer Grafing delivered a 3-point play with 53.6 seconds remaining in the second half Saturday night, long-time Trojans’ head coach Ron Vorwald hollered to his team, “good defense, no fouls.”
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — With Worthington leading 70-58 after Spencer Grafing delivered a 3-point play with 53.6 seconds remaining in the second half Saturday night, long-time Trojans’ head coach Ron Vorwald hollered to his team, “good defense, no fouls.”
Third-seeded Worthington was well on its way to securing a hard-fought 71-60 victory over sixth-seeded Windom in the opening round of the Section 3AA South boys’ basketball tournament at that point, and Vorwald has said those same four words lots of times from the bench at the end of many Trojan wins over the past 24 seasons.
Saturday’s game was the final one in the storied Worthington High School gym as a coach for Vorwald, who is retiring from teaching and coaching at the end of the school year. He was honored with a brief ceremony following the game, which was well-attended by several of his former players and assistant coaches.
“It was a special night,” said Vorwald, who was presented with a plaque by WHS activities director Mike Traphagen after the game. “I’m really proud of the way our guys played, as it certainly wasn’t an easy situation for them. There was a lot of pressure involved, and our guys responded well in the second half.”
Worthington (16-8) outscored Windom (13-12) 44-30 in the second half to erase a 30-27 halftime deficit and advance to the sub-section semifinals Thursday. The Trojans will take on second-seeded Martin County West (20-5) in Windom at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Grafing poured in a career-high 28 points (17 in the second half) to spark Worthington, while senior Jon Vorwald — Ron’s youngest son — also had a big performance with 17 points and five assists in his final game at home as a Trojan.
“I have a lot of memories in this gym,” Jon Vorwald said. “It was great to get a win in my dad’s last home game and to advance in the playoffs. We had a bunch of guys step up and make big plays tonight.”
The Trojans used a pair of 8-0 runs in the second half to stave off a gallant effort by Windom, which led for a large portion of the middle 18 minutes of the game (final nine minutes of the first half and first nine minutes of the second half).
“We had a game plan, and we stuck to it very well,” Windom head coach Dane Nielsen said. “We tried to keep Worthington off balance with a variety of zone defensive looks and did a nice job of it for the most part. But the Trojans have so many weapons and they started to hit some timely 3-pointers, so give them a lot of credit.”
Windom’s Collin Lovell (three assists) scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the first half, while Andy Pfeffer (five steals, three assists) scored nine of his 12 points before halftime to lead the Eagles.
Windom trailed 10-2 early before scoring 11 straight points to take a 13-10 lead with 10 minutes and 16 seconds on the clock. Lovell buried two long 3-pointers from the top of the key and scored on a drive, while Nathan Remmers (nine points, six rebounds) also hit a long-distance shot to fuel the Eagles’ 11-0 run.
Vorwald connected on a pair of 3-pointers, and Morgan Traylor (eight points, 13 rebounds and three shot blocks) produced a reverse layup along the baseline to put Worthington up 18-17 at the 5:48 mark.
But Pfeffer scored four straight points and passed to Remmers for a hoop, while Lovell knocked down two more 3-pointers to help Windom open up a 30-23 lead and take a 30-27 advantage as the first half came to a close.
Interior baskets by Lovell and Remmers pushed Windom’s lead back to seven (34-27) to start the second half, but the Trojans scored 13 of the next 16 points — including eight straight — to reclaim the lead at 40-37 with 11:50 left.
Grafing netted two 3-pointers, Marcus Potter (seven assists) scored on a nifty drive through traffic, and Josh Vander Veen (eight points) hit a trey from the right corner to shift the momentum to Worthington.
The score stayed close, and Windom went up a couple of times (45-44 and 48-47) thanks to a trio of big 3-pointers by Jacob Johnson (nine points).
However, Worthington again scored eight consecutive points to take a 55-48 lead with 4:58 remaining. Another 3-pointer by Grafing and a 15-footer along the baseline by Will Dudley (six points, seven steals) triggered that run and put the Trojans up for good.
Vorwald hit a right-wing 3-pointer, and Grafing scored on a sweet drive in transition — finishing with his left hand — to push the Trojans’ lead to 61-51 with 2:20 to go.
Grafing later passed to Traylor for an alley-oop dunk and converted on a 3-point play, as the Trojans broke the Eagles’ full-court pressure and sealed a 71-60 victory.
Jacob Gotto (seven points, eight rebounds) and Trenton Bever scored late in the game for Windom, while Worthington’s Carter Lindner had a key basket midway through the second half.
WINDOM (13-12): A. Pfeffer 3 6-8 12, John-son 3 0-0 9, T. Bever 0 1-2 1, Gotto 3 0-0 7, Lovell 7 3-5 22, Antes 0 0-1 0, Remmers 4 0-0 9. Totals: 20 10-16 60.
WORTHINGTON (16-8): Vorwald 5 4-4 17, Vander Veen 3 0-0 8, Dudley 3 0-0 6, Potter 1 0-0 2, M. Traylor 3 2-4 8, Grafing 10 4-5 28, Lindner 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 10-13 71.
Windom 30 30 — 60
Worthington 27 44 — 71
3-Point Goals: Windom 10 (Lovell 5, Johnson 3, Gotto, Remmers); Worthington 9 (Grafing 4, Vorwald 3, Vander Veen 2). Rebounds: Windom 21 (Gotto 8, Remmers 6); Worthington 28 (M. Traylor 13). Turnovers: Windom 9, Worthington 14.