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Prep boys basketball: Speed and depth help Trojans beat Eagles, 69-57

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Worthington Trojan senior Spencer Grafing (23) puts up a three-point shot during Friday night’s boys basketball game against Windom Area.

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON —Effectively utilizing 10 players and running the court well, Worthington opened its 2013-14 Southwest Conference boys’ basketball season with a well-balanced 69-57 victory over the visiting Windom Eagles Friday night on the Trojans’ homecourt.

The game was the nightcap in a girl-boy varsity doubleheader.

“We tried to create some tempo by playing fast and using lots of guys,” summed up Worthington’s new head coach Jared Keaveny. “All 10 guys that played gave us quality minutes and did their best to make plays for the team.”

Leading 36-29 at halftime, the Trojans scored the first nine points after intermission and led by double figures throughout the rest of the contest.

Worthington’s biggest lead was 59-41 with 5:43 remaining after 6-4 Trojan forward Will Mulder fired in his fourth three-pointer of the game.

Windom — which had a couple of leads in the first half — countered with a 16-8 run, slicing the gap to 67-57 with 1:11 to play as a pair of free throws by hard-working senior forward Bryce Bever capped the rally.

Eagle junior guard Kyle Antes scored nine of his team-high 15 points during a two-minute span of that surge, including both an inside three-point play and a long-range three-pointer. Antes made eight-of-nine free throws in the contest.

“I was impressed with Windom,” said Keaveny. “They are well-coached and certainly never quit. They did lots of good things and took advantage of our mistakes.”

A sweet fastbreak basket by the Trojans —from Will Dudley to Carter Lindner back to Dudley streaking down the middle —put Worthington back up by 12 and then Jessie Guerra’s hustling steal sealed the victory for the Trojans with 50 seconds left.

Two groups rotate for Trojans in first half  While the Trojans started Dudley, Mulder, Lindner, Marcus Potter and Spencer Grafing, Keaveny ended up utilizing two rotating groups most of the first half.

Potter, Mulder, Lindner, Troy Ektnitphong and Oliver Wolyniec played as one unit, while Dudley, Grafing, Guerra, Jake Weg and Ethan Miller played together as the other group.

“It worked pretty well,” declared Keaveny. “It’s early in the season and we played 10 kids, who all contributed to our effort.”

A trio of impressive plays by the Trojans included dazzling fastbreak buckets by Grafing (assist Guerra), Mulder and Wolyniec. Potter had the assists to both Mulder and Wolyniec as he fired perfect passes off the speed dribble.

“Playing a lot of kids allows us to get out and run the lanes,” explained Keaveny. “We did a nice job of executing our fastbreak.”

A Grafing to Dudley fastbreak play started the Trojans 9-0 run to open the second half and then a steal and layup by Dudley gave Worthington a 40-29 lead with 17:05 left in the game.

Potter found Lindner with a bounce pass on an inbounds play for a bucket and an offensive rebound by Lindner was fired out to Mulder for a top-of-the-key three-pointer and the Trojans were in control, 45-29.

Windom, which was playing with three sophomores for a stretch of the second half, finally scored at the 13:37 mark on a strong putback by sophomore Hunter Hayenga.

Weg, who drew two charges in the second half, scored inside on a great effort after rebounding his own miss, keeping the spread at 16.

Windom’s quick senior guard Jacob Gotto scored on a steal and layup, but free throws by Dudley and Wolyniec were followed by a three-pointer by Mulder and with 9:12 on the clock, the Trojans owned a 52-35 advantage.

“Worthington played well,” summed up third-year Windom head coach Dane Nielsen, who played for the Eagles in the mid-1990s. “We battled and never gave up. But we had 27 turnovers compared to 12 asssists —that’s not a good statistic against a good team like Worthington.”

Eight players scored in the game for the Eagles (1-3, 0-2), including eight each by Bever and Gotto (four assists), seven by Hayenga and six each by Tyler Morgan and Jeff Pfeffer (two three-pointers).

Dudley (19), Mulder (18) and Grafing (13) each scored in double figures, combining for 50 of Worthington’s points, while Wolyniec and Lindner each tallied eight points.

“We had good offensive balance and I liked our hustle and our defensive rotation, which I thought was excellent,” concluded Keaveny, who earned his first win as a Trojans’ coach after opening with an overtime loss at Fairmont 10 days earlier (Nov. 26). “This was a nice win for our team.”

The Trojans (1-1, 1-0) travel to Luverne for a Southwest Conference clash Tuesday.

Windom 29 57 Worthington 36 69 WINDOM (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Huska 0-1-1-3, Pfeffer 2-0-0-6, Morgan 0-3-0-6, Luitjens 0-1-2-4, Hayenga 0-3-1-7, Antes 1-2-8-15, Gotto 0-4-0-8, Bever 0-3-2-8. Totals 3-17-14-57 WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Dudley 0-8-3-19, Grafing 0-4-5-13, Potter 0-0-1-1, Mulder 4-3-18, Wolyniec 0-4-0-8, Lindner 0-4-0-8, Weg 0-1-0-2. Totals 4-21-15-69