Prep girls basketball: WHS Trojans are aiming high
WORTHINGTON —If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
The Trojans posted a 21-6 record last year that included a runner-up standing in the Southwest Conference behind Marshall. Even after graduating a trio of strong seniors from that team, Worthington has good reason to be hopeful for this season when it tips off Tuesday night at home against Fairmont.
“We did have a good season last year but there is always disappointment when you don’t meet your goals,” head coach Eric Lindner said as he prepared his team for the upcoming season. “One of our goals was to reach the state tournament. It is one of those things where we have to go back and evaluate what we could have done better.”
It will be the fruit of evaluations and the hard work of the team’s players that will carry this year’s club as far as it can reach. The Trojans return two of their top three scorers from a year ago in junior Ana Boever (14.8 points per game) and senior Paige Gravenhof (13 points per game).
Brooke Henning, also a senior this winter, crashed the boards well last year, collecting seven rebounds per game. Abbie Landgaard, another senior, is the team’s point guard and finished last season with 90 assists. Gravenhof had 107. On defense, Boever had 80 takeaways. Gravenhof collected 81 steals as the Trojans held their opponents to 52 points on average.
Defensive pressure fed a high-tempo attack offensively in 2012-13, and the team hopes to retain and improve upon that brand of ball this season. It is a formula that has worked many times for Lindner’s teams. The Trojans have six conference crowns under his leadership over the past 14 years. They currently seek their first league title since winning it in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“Very rarely will we have the ball for more than eight or nine seconds before a shot goes up,” Lindner said of his team’s preferred style. “The good thing about it is that if you have a deep team, it allows your depth to get to another team that might only play five or six players.”
As one of her team’s leaders for the season, Boever comes from a long line of athletic tradition. She is one of 11 children. Two of Ana’s sisters, Maria and Gabrielle, have gone on to successfully play Division I basketball at South Dakota State University. A brother, Simon, played Division II football. Many others from the family tree have gone on to play sports collegiately.
The family tradition not only creates spirited competitions among Ana’s brothers, sisters and extended family, she said. It helps her in high school competition as well.
“We are a really competitive family. We’re the type that, instead of sleeping after a meal, we’ll go find a gym and play,” Boever said. “We’re really competitive with our family and even the in-laws. It prepares me to do well here. Basketball is a really big team sport, though, and you have to know how to play with your team.”
The team’s other returning leading scorer is Gravenhof. After pairing with Henning, Landgaard and others on this fall’s volleyball team at WHS, the group hopes to do great things as everybody transitions to the basketball court.
“Last year went pretty well. We lost that section final game. I think that if we work hard this year we will go far,” Gravenhof said as her basketball team practiced early last week. “My sophomore year, we went to the state tournament. It was so much fun. It kind of makes you want to go back.
“As a senior, this is my last year,” Gravenhof added of what she hopes to contribute individually. “I want to make it worth it.”
Fairmont enters Tuesday’s game after going 13-13 last season. Next year, this will be a conference game as both schools join the newly announced Big South Conference. For now, all Lindner can say for sure is that the Cardinals are perennially competitive. Undivided focus is needed from his players as they prepare for the season opener at home.
“We always go back-and-forth with Fairmont. They have tremendous size. They go 6-0, 5-10 and 5-11. They also have two kids who are capable of handling the ball,” Lindner said. “In years past, we’ve been able to get to them with our pressure. We’ll have to see if they can handle pressure and whether we can handle boxing out against their size. We’re excited to get started.”