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Suffering Scarlet fever

WORTHINGTON -- Fueled by a sensational performance from senior point guard Bryce Brunz Thursday night, the Mankato West Scarlets rolled to an impressive 72-51 victory over the Worthington Trojans and captured the Daily Globe-Trojan Holiday Classic boys' basketball title for the third consecutive year.

Mankato West, ranked eighth in the latest state Class AAA polls, improves to 7-1, while the loss snaps Worthington's three-game winning streak and moves the Trojans' record to 4-4.

"We always enjoy coming down here for this tournament," Scarlets head coach Tom Boone said following the game. "There is great competition here, and to win this tournament three years in a row is quite an accomplishment for our kids."

Brunz scored a game-high 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting (58 percent), including 7-of-13 from 3-point range. He also came up with six of Mankato West's 16 steals and dished out six assists.

"Bryce had a big night, and our guys did a good job of setting things up for him," Boone said. "He doesn't need a lot of time to get his shot off, and our guys were feeding him and screening for him very well."

With the game tied at 10-all after Worthington's Quentin Dudley scored on a nice drive with 10:45 remaining in the first half, Brunz drilled his first 3-pointer of the night to spark the Scarlets on a 16-2 surge -- putting Mankato West up 26-12 with 5:21 to go.

Brunz scored five more points in that stretch and made two dazzling passes to Mike Richter and Derrick Cattrysse (five assists, five steals) for layups.

Mankato West's defense was also doing the job, applying suffocating pressure all over the court -- especially on the perimeter -- and causing the Trojans to turn the ball over several times in the half-court set.

"Our defense was really a key tonight," Boone said. "We brought good intensity from the start and scored some easy buckets because of that."

Joel Olson -- who had scored Worthington's first eight points of the contest -- helped keep the Trojans in the game with 13 of his team-best 23 points in the first half, but Mankato West took a 35-21 halftime with the help of two more 3-pointers by Brunz in the final two minutes.

"We really struggled tonight," Worthington head coach Ron Vorwald said. "Their defensive pressure gave us some problems, and we weren't able to get into any kind of offensive flow."

Worthington -- which had received a nice fast-break layup from Travis Meinders with one second left in the first half -- aimed to decrease its deficit early in the second half, but each basket it made was answered by the Scarlets, and the margin stayed around 15 points through the first eight minutes.

The Trojans did manage to pull within 12 points (46-34) with 10:15 left as Mike Vorwald scored on a nifty drive and scoop shot.

But that's when Brunz really got hot, scoring seven consecutive points (two free throws, an 18-foot pull-up jumper and a smooth 3-pointer from the left wing) in just over a minute to give the Scarlets a 53-34 bulge with 8:55 left.

The lead was later increased to 27 points (61-34 with 6:44 to go), as Aaron Richter scored on JJ Cattrysse's assist, Andrew Sathoff made a free throw, and Brunz scored off a steal before knocking down his final 3-pointer to cap the 15-0 burst.

Worthington continued to battle, and received several highlight plays in the closing minutes to bring the final margin back to 21 points.

Vorwald swished a 3-pointer and found Olson (nine rebounds) with two of his six assists for inside hoops, while Dudley and Kent Knutson each had a nice putback bucket, and Meinders hit a 3-pointer of his own to spark the Trojans.

"This game will only help us get better," coach Vorwald said. "We saw one of the best teams in our section tonight, and we know where we need to get to be able to compete with teams like this later in the season."

Worthington hosts St. James on January 6, while Mankato West visits St. Thomas Academy next Thursday.

Mankato West 35 37 -- 72

Worthington 21 30 -- 51

Mankato West (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Brunz 7-7-3-38, J. Cattrysse 0-1-2-4, D. Cattrysse 0-2-1-5, M. Knutson 0-1-2-4, A. Richter 0-2-0-4, M. Richter 0-4-1-9, Sathoff 0-2-1-5, Schuldt 1-0-0-3. Totals: 8-19-10-72.

Worthington (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Vorwald 1-3-0-9, Meinders 1-1-0-5, Omot 0-0-2-2, K. Knutson 0-1-2-4, Dudley 0-2-1-5, Ahrens 0-1-1-3, Olson 0-10-3-23. Totals: 2-18-9-51.