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Girls basketball: Trojans runaway early, go to 14-1

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Trojan Abbie Landgaard lines up an outside shot during Friday night’s Southwest Conference girls basketball game in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON — Dominating Friday night’s Southwest Conference high school girls’ basketball game from start to finish, the Worthington Trojans won their 10th straight contest in convincing fashion, storming to a 39-10 lead late in the first half before finishing off the visiting Pipestone Area Arrows with a 73-41 victory on their home court.

With the victory, the Trojans (14-1) improved to 7-1 in the conference with just two league games remaining.

Worthington hosts Murray County Central tonight in a non-conference clash, which is the program’s annual “Meet the Trojans Night,” with its featured team poster, signed by the players.

The Trojans travel to Luverne Thursday and then tangle with league-leading Marshall on the Tigers’ court Feb. 8 in the final conference game of the season.

Friday’s game against a struggling PA squad (3-13, 2-7), which has lost four games in a row, was decided early.

“We came out aggressively and did what we do best,” exclaimed WHS head coach Eric Lindner. “We were able to put good pressure on the ball, do some trapping in the corners and create turnovers, which led to several transition baskets.”

Great offensive balance was evident for the Trojans from the beginning, as all five starters scored within the game’s first six minutes. Then, 5-10 junior forward Achan Alwal, known as AC, came off the bench and gave Worthington even more offense as she pumped in a trio of quick field goals and the Trojans owned a 26-10 advantage with 10:11 to play before intermission

With things already going its ways, Lindner’s squad took complete control over the game’s next 7:26, holding the Arrows without a point. The Trojans, meanwhile, continued to share the ball and netted 13 unanswered points, yielding a huge 39-10 lead with 2:35 remaining.

“We continued playing great defense, getting lots of tips and some steals,” praised Lindner. “Offensively, we were passing the ball well, swinging it from side to side with real good movement, setting up good shots.”

Worthington reserves played out the half and — after the Arrows scored five consecutive five points — sophomore forward Allie Bruns (5-11) drove hard to the hoop, converting a buzzer-beating right-side drive, which sent the Trojans into the break with a 41-15 advantage.

Junior forward Ana Boever — who had a triple nine (nine points, nine rebounds, nine steals) in Worthington’s recent (Jan. 27) 63-52 victory over Southwest Christian — scored 12 points in the first half, while senior guard Paige Gravenhof tallied nine.

Seniors Brooke Henning, Becca Linder and Abbie Landgaard, along with Gravenhof and Boever —Worthington’s starting five —returned to the court at the start of the second half.

The Trojans did not come out of the gate with the same energy which carried them at the game’s beginning.

The Arrows — sparked by five points, a rebound and an assist from freshman guard Rachel Skyberg, steals by both Bianca Claussen and Libby Schneider, along with a three-pointer from Claussen — opened the second half on an 8-4 run, slicing the lead to 44-25 at the 14:52 mark.

“We played better in the second half,” said veteran PA head coach Jay Johnson, who guided the Arrows to a Class AA state championship in 2007. “But, we had a long ways to battle back from as Worthington really took it us in the first half, with their athleticism and tremendous defensive pressure. The Trojans have a very good team.”

Indeed they do.

The Trojans responded to PA’s improved play by countering with a 10-2 run of their own, as Gravenhof (13 points, seven assists, five steals) found Boever on the break and the Alwal twins (Apiew to Achan) teamed together on a beautiful play to trigger the burst.

Achan Alwal, who finished with a game-high 16 points, scored again off a nice move down low (assist Gravenhof) and took another pass from her twin sister, giving WHS a 54-27 lead with 10:57 remaining.

Two free throws by Landgaard were a part of that run and when Olivia Ebbers, Achan Alwal and Henning each sank a pair from the line, Worthington was firmly in control, leading 60-31 at the 7:33 mark.

Worthington freshman Ahmitara Alwal, who had hustled for several steals, became the 10th Trojan to score in the game when she drained a left-side three-pointer in the closing seconds.

Achan Alwal’s 16 points came on six-of-seven shooting from the field and four-of-five from the line.

“AC has that kind of ability,” praised Lindner. “She did a nice job of finishing inside tonight, as she attacked well against Pipestone’s post defenders.”

Boever finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, five steals and four blocks, while Henning (seven rebounds), Landgaard (five steals), Linder (five rebounds) and Apiew Alwal (two assists) were other statistical leaders for the Trojans.

Ten players also scored for the Arrows, who were led by 10 points from Emily Mabon, six from Schneider and five each by Skyberg and Claussen, including those back-to-back three-pointers early in the second half.

Pipestone Area 15 41

Worthington 41 73

PIPESTONE AREA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Skyberg 1-1-0-5, Mabon 1-3-1-10, Bucher 0-1-0-2, Nesvold 0-1-0-2, Remund 1-0-0-3, Nettik 0-2-0-4, Evans 0-0-2-2, Claussen 1-1-0-5, Kooiker 0-1-0-2, Schneider 0-2-2-6. Totals 4-12-5-41.

WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) — Boever 2-4-1-15, Ebbers 0-1-2-4, Landgaard 0-3-2-8, Henning 0-1-3-5, Bruns 0-1-0-2, Gerber 0-0-1-1, Linder 0-1-4-6, Gravenhof 1-4-2-13, Ac. Alwal 0-6-4-16, Ah. Alwal 1-0-0-3. Totals 4-21-19-73.