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Boys basketball: Trojans step up with defense

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WINDOM — Playing better defense than they did in their own Holiday Tournament three weeks ago, the Worthington Trojans held off a determined Windom Eagle squad on its home floor Friday and emerged with a 64-56 Southwest Conference high school boys’ basketball victory.

Along with an improved defensive performance, the Trojans (5-6, 4-3) also ran the court well, scoring several times on quick transition baskets before the Eagles were fully back on defense.

“We did a lot of nice things,” summed up a pleased Worthington head coach Jared Keaveny after his team’s second victory of the season over Windom (5-10, 1-6). “We are getting better defensively and it was nice to get the ball passed up ahead and get some of those quick scores.”

Senior veterans Marcus Potter and Spencer Grafing were the catalysts on several of those Trojan fast breaks, with Potter dishing an assist to Grafing to complete a three-on-one play.

“They had too many of them (transition baskets),” Windom head coach Dane Nielsen said about the Trojans ability to run the floor. “That was our defensive goal to cut down on their fast breaks and find them in transition, but we were not able to get that job done.”

Grafing, who sank six late-game free throws — in as many attempts — finished the night with a game-high 21 points, while Potter distributed a game-leading 11 assists in a solid all-around performance for the Trojans.

“Marcus did a great job of passing the ball, both on the break and in the half court offense,” Keaveny praised. “As a team, we did a nice job of moving the ball and getting good shots.”

After Windom’s Bryce Bever (10 points, nine rebounds) broke wide open underneath and took a nifty ball-fake pass from Jacob Gotto (19 points, four assists, five rebounds, three steals) for the game’s first basket, the Trojans countered with a 10-0 run and never trailed again.

A Grafing three-pointer gave Worthington a 19-13 lead with 6:15 to play in the first half and the Trojans opened up a 31-20 advantage when Oliver Wolyniec converted on a dandy drive.

The Eagles, however, countered with a 10-4 surge to close the half, sparked by back-to-back three-pointers from Gotto.

After Worthington’s Ethan Miller and Windom’s Sam Huska exchanged treys to start the second half, the Trojans scored two quick hoops when Will Dudley (12 points, four assists, three steals) converted a steal into a layup and Potter found a streaking Grafing for a bucket.

Worthington’s lead ballooned to margins of 42-34 and 46-36 before a nifty three-point play by Gotto made the score 46-39 at the 8:51 mark.

A beautiful bounce pass from Miller to Will Mulder (10 points, four rebounds) put the Trojans up 50-43 and Potter’s jump shot increased the lead to nine.

Windom rallied again, slicing an 11-point edge down to four (60-56) in the closing minutes as Gotto nailed a couple more three-pointers and Jeff Pfeffer drew a charge, blocked a shot, converted a three-point play off an offensive rebound and passed to Tyler Morgan (six points, 11 rebounds) for an inside hoop.

But two free throws by Dudley and a pair from Grafing closed out the game’s scoring.

Pfeffer finished with 11 points, for the Eagles — who sank nine-of-10 free throws in the game — as each team put three players in double figures.

Worthington 35 64

Windom 30 56

WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Miller 1-0-0-3, Dudley 0-4-4-12, Grafing 3-3-6-21, Potter 0-3-2-8, Mulder 0-5-0-10, Wolyniec 0-1-0-2, Lindner 0-2-0-4, Weg 0-1-2-4. Totals 4-19-14-64

WINDOM AREA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Huska 1-0-1-4, Pfeffer 2-2-1-11, Morgan 0-1-4-6, Antes 0-3-0-6, Gotto 4-3-1-19, Bever 0-4-2-10. Totals 7-13-9-56.