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WHS Girls' Basketball: Worthington can't contain Tigers

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Trojan Mackenzie Gerber takes a shot from behind the free-throw line be-tween two Tiger defenders during Thursday night's game in Worthington.1 / 2
BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Trojan K.C. Riley (34) drives inside for a shot in front of two Tiger defenders during Thursday night's basketball action in Worthington.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington girls' basketball team hosted a familiar opponent Thursday night with the game ending with the same result as the last time the two teams met.

In this season's first meeting of the two Southwest Conference rivals, the Trojans fell victim to a Marshall Tigers' squad, which ended Worthington's previous season in the semifinals of the Section 3AAA playoffs in early March, by a final score of 75-63.

"Marshall is a good team," WHS head coach Eric Lindner said following the loss. "They are the sixth-ranked team in Class 3AAA. I thought we were able to play with them and we made a run at them at the end so that was encouraging to see how hard our girls played."

Following a good start by the Trojans, which saw the hosts build a 13-9 lead through the first six minutes of the contest, the Tigers countered with 16-4 run over the next seven minutes to take command of the game.

WHS was led in its early game efforts by senior post Kristen Andersen, who totaled 15 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots in her first action of the season.

Andersen scored six of the first 13 points while Mackenzie Gerber (team-high 24 points and 12 rebounds) had five and K.C Riley had the other two points.

However, the Trojans early lead didn't hold as the Tigers used a 1-2-2 full-court press to stymie the locals, forcing them to turn the ball over.

"Too many unforced turnovers and I thought that was the difference in the ballgame," Lindner said of the turnover differential. "We turned it over 30 times and they were at half of that. We need to take better care of the basketball."

"There were a lot of them that were over kids' heads and out of bounds. It was really uncharacteristic compared to what we did against Jackson. I think Marshall's height in the front end made a difference as our kids were trying to throw passes over their heads and through their hands and not utilizing the bounce pass."

WHS finished with 30 turnovers compared to 16 for MHS.

Kelsey Saugstad, who scored seven of the Tigers' first nine points, paced the visitors with a game-high 29 points (14 for 15 free throws) and created four of her team's 13 steals.

Jessica Baker (nine rebounds), Saugstad and Kelli VanLeeuwe (seven rebounds) each had four points in the Tigers 16-4 run to take a 25-17 lead with five minutes left in the first half while Sarah Andersen (12 points, five rebounds) and Sydney Griffin had a bucket a piece in that span.

The Trojans pulled within seven points (28-21) with 2:44 left in the first half as Lydia Kemper (seven steals, six rebounds) got a steal and a made a nice pass to Abbie Landgaard for a basket but the Tigers finished the half with a 10-4 run with six of those points coming at the free-throw line.

In the game, MHS outperformed WHS at the charity stripe with the Tigers converting 25 of 34 while the Trojans made 15 of 25.

Trailing by 13 following the break, the Trojans narrowed the gap to nine points six minutes into the second half before the Tigers widened the lead to a game-high 18 points (59-41) with 7:36 to play.

Megan Juber made a pair of 3-pointers for the Trojans and Kristen Andersen scored five points while Gerber and Kemper each scored a basket.

Meanwhile, the Tigers received seven points from Hannah Bennett in that stretch followed by Saugstad with five and VanLeeuwe and Sarah Andersen each with four.

However, the Trojans had some fight left in them over the final seven minutes of play as the hosts cut the lead to six twice (63-57 with 1:59 to play and 65-59 with 1:18 left).

"We knew Worthington wouldn't go away," MHS head coach Dan Westby said. "They're a good team and they have some good seniors. I think anytime you have that, you will always be able to stay in the game regardless of the score."

Bernadette Boever scored five points to start the WHS comeback effort to make before fouling out with 5:52 left in the game.

Without Boever, the trio of Gerber, Kemper and Kristen Andersen would score the remainder of the points for the Trojans.

Gerber's eight points led the Trojans down the stretch while Kemper had five and Andersen had four.

WHS was forced to put MHS to the foul line in the comeback effort and stood little chance as Saugstad took the majority of the Tigers' charity shots and converted seven of eight down the stretch.

"Kelsey did a number of things, offensively, that we needed her to do," Westby added. "She certainly has the ability and showed that (Thursday)."

Both teams shot well from the field in the contest but it was the Tigers with the definitive edge as shot 63 percent (24 for 38) compared to 51 percent (22 for 43) for the Trojans.

Lindner attributed the Tigers' high percentage to their patience and discipline.

"Marshall's a very disciplined team in their half-court offense," Lindner said. "There was one point in the game where it seemed like they ran their motion offense for about two minutes.

"We need to become more disciplined in our offense if we want to compete against good teams. I thought we didn't get the ball inside often enough. We established an inside game early with a few nice baskets and having Kristen back gives us a little more presence down there but we still need to get better at getting the ball inside especially when our perimeter shooting isn't there."

With the win, the Tigers take the lead in the SWC with a 2-0 record and 6-0 overall. MHS travels to Jackson County Central Tuesday.

The loss drops the Trojans into second in the SWC with a 3-1 record and 3-2 overall.

WHS returns to action Monday against BOLD in a holiday tournament hosted by Cedar Mountain/Comfrey in Comfrey.

MHS 38 37 -- 75

WHS 25 38 -- 63

MHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Saugstad 1-6-14-29, Beekman 0-0-1-1, Bennett 1-2-0-7, VanLeeuwe 0-6-4-16, Baker 0-2-3-7, Andersen 0-5-2-12, Griffin 0-1-1-3. Totals 2-22-25-75.

WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Juber 2-0-06, Landgaard 0-1-0-2, Kemper 0-3-3-9, Gerber 1-7-4-21, Riley 0-2-0-4, Andersen 1-4-4-15, Boever 0-1-4-6. Totals 4-18-15-63.