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Trojans fall in season opener

WORTHINGTON -- Jordan Cunningham scored all of his game-high 22 points in the second half Saturday night, sparking the Mankato East Cougars boys' basketball team to a season-opening 59-50 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a matchup between the two Section 2AAA schools.

Cunningham, tabbed as one of the top five players in the section by Minnesota Basketball News, knocked down a trio of three-pointers during the final 18 minutes of action and scored seven straight points over a 46-second span to turn a 34-31 Worthington lead into a 38-34 advantage for the Cougars.

Erik Johnson (16) and Shafi Qanyare (11) also scored in double figures for the Cougars, who trailed for most of the game's first 22 minutes before controlling the final 14 minutes to earn the victory.

"It's big anytime you come away with a win against Worthington, especially in this gym," East head coach Joe Madson said after the game. "We knew we would have to play good defense and rebound well because the Trojans are always disciplined and will get after you defensively."

After East's Matt Bauer scored on a drive through the lane for the game's first points 19 seconds after the opening tip, Worthington went on a 10-2 run to take command.

Adou Omot (10 points, six rebounds) got things going for the Trojans with an 18-foot jumper from the left wing before leaping high and scoring on an offensive-rebound opportunity.

Joe Ahrens (five rebounds, four points), who was saddled with foul trouble for most of the game, found Travis Meinders (10 points) with a high-low bounce pass for a basket, and Mike Vorwald (six points, five assists) hit a free throw and a three-pointer from the top of the key to help the Trojans build a 10-4 lead at the 14-minute mark.

Worthington later increased its lead to 16-7 with 8:57 remaining, as Kent Knutson (12 points) went four-for-four from the free-throw line and scored off an assist from Matt King (eight points) in the Trojans' flex offense.

That would be the largest lead of the game for the Trojans, as Johnson and Qanyare fueled a 13-4 surge for the Cougars -- knotting the score at 20-apiece with 4:46 left before halftime.

Johnson scored three straight baskets, including one off a lead pass from Qanyare in transition, to start the run. Ken King later made a free throw, and Qanyare fired in a pair of three-pointers.

However, Meinders scored six points in the final 3:29 of the half to give the Trojans a 26-22 halftime lead. His points came on a free throw after a drive down the lane, an 18-foot jumper along the right baseline on a feed from Vorwald, and a three-pointer from the top of the key on another pass from Vorwald.

Meinders scored the first bucket of the second half on a 15-foot pullup jumper from the right wing, and Omot later stroked a 15-footer from the left wing, as Worthington maintained a four-point lead (30-26) with 16:27 to play.

After Knutson scored a layup after picking up a loose ball, Cunningham hit his second three-pointer of the half to make it a 32-29 game.

Johnson and Matt King then exchanged baskets to make it 34-31 with 14:54 showing on the clock -- setting up the seven straight points from Cunningham, a 6-4 senior forward who sat with three fouls for much of the first half.

A deep three-pointer from out top tied the game at 34-34 with 14:36 left before a steal and layup gave the Cougars their first lead since Bauer's game-opening hoop.

Ken King then came up with a steal and found Cunningham for a layup with a bounce pass on the break, giving the Cougars a 38-34 lead with 13:50 remaining.

"The Cunningham kid was the difference with his scoring in the second half," WHS head coach Ron Vorwald said. "We played pretty well defensively and worked hard, but he got loose and once he got on a roll, they got on a roll."

Worthington stayed within one-to-four points over the next five minutes, as Vorwald found Omot and Knutson under the hoop for layups, and King connected from three-point range from the left wing.

East got points from Andrew Bornholdt (two free throws) and Cunningham (18-foot jumper on left baseline) over that stretch, and held a 42-41 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.

A pair of drives and another 18-footer from Cunningham, along with a three-pointer by Johnson, triggered the Cougars on a 9-1 surge that produced a 51-42 bulge with 7:54 to go.

Worthington never got any closer than seven points the rest of the way, as Johnson scored two more baskets, and Qanyare made a trio of free throws down the stretch to keep the Cougars in the lead.

"We were impatient offensively tonight, and our shot selection wasn't very good," Vorwald said. "We need to get to the rim more often and get more touches and shots around the elbows and in the paint."

Both teams play Tuesday, as Worthington (0-1) hosts Adrian, and East (1-0) visits Rochester Century.

Mankato East 22 37 -- 59

Worthington 26 24 -- 50

EAST (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Qanyare 2-1-3-11, A. Bornholdt 0-1-2-4, King 0-1-1-3, Bauer 0-1-1-3, Cunningham 3-6-1-22, Johnson 1-6-1-16. Totals: 6-16-9-59.

WHS (3PT-2PT-FT-TP): Vorwald 1-1-1-6, Meinders 1-3-1-10, Omot 0-4-2-10, Knutson 0-4-4-12, King 1-1-3-8, Ahrens 0-1-2-4. Totals: 3-14-3-50.

Spirit Lake 66, JCC 51

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa -- After falling behind 29-18 at halftime, the Jackson County Central Huskie boys' basketball team could not recover in a 66-51 loss Saturday.

Scott Benson led the Huskies with 18 points, while Patrick Garvin added 12 points and seven rebounds. Nathan Brandt scored 10, while Ryan Rasche pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

Mason Burgquist scored a team-high 17 points to lead Spirit Lake.

JCC (0-2) will travel to Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Tuesday.

JCC 18 33 -- 51

Spirit Lake 29 37 -- 66