Trojans face Bulldogs in Class AAA opener
WORTHINGTON -- On a weekend known more for the announcement of the seedings and pairings for the NCAA basketball tournament, the Worthington Trojans girls basketball team had its own selection show-style reaction Saturday when it was tabbed as th...
WORTHINGTON -- On a weekend known more for the announcement of the seedings and pairings for the NCAA basketball tournament, the Worthington Trojans girls basketball team had its own selection show-style reaction Saturday when it was tabbed as the eighth seed in the Class AAA tournament.
"We saw our name on the brackets for the state tournament, and it was, 'Oh, my God. We're actually there!'" said Trojan Ashley Aggen on Monday, before the team went to work in preparing for its quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Becker. The two teams will meet at 10 a.m. today at Target Center.
The Trojans (18-7) enter the state tourney on a four-game winning streak, while top-seeded Becker (28-1) has not lost since Dec. 2 against Hopkins. Included in Becker's run is a 70-52 victory over the Trojans on Feb. 3, where the Bulldogs used a 26-5 run at the end of the first half to pull away.
The fact that Becker has already defeated Worthington once this season isn't perceived by Trojans' players as much of a road block to a WHS victory. As was the case of their last foe, the Trojans can use the early defeat as a motivational factor.
"Becker did beat us," Trojan Sarah Boever said. "Marshall had beaten us so many times, and we beat them."
A quick glance at the season schedule shows the strength of Worthington's schedule. Of the six teams the Trojans lost to this season, four qualified for state (Fulda, Pipestone Area, Becker, and Fairmont).
And if they're disappointed about their No. 8 seed, they're not stewing over it.
"You're going to have to play everybody anyway," WHS head coach Eric Lindner said. "The biggest thing for us is Becker is the No. 1 seed, but it's a good match for us."
Worthington will look to play a similar game to the one it played Thursday against Marshall, when its perimeter shooting was strong and its effectiveness at the free-throw line was critical down the stretch.
It was the Trojans' perimeter shooting that helped hold off Marshall at two key stages -- early in the first half, after the Tigers had gone on an 11-0 run to take the lead, and at the start of the second half.
While Becker has size, Worthington hopes to use its opponents height to its advantage.
"They're big kids," Sarah Boever said. "I don't know if they can guard us outside."
The Trojans also showed a willingness to take the open shot and not be too unselfish in their sectional final. Earlier in the season, the team often passed up shots in anticipation of better ones.
Above all else, the Trojans face the difficult task of blocking out the Bulldogs on the boards. The Trojans did well against the Tigers, but Becker's Brianna Mastey will certainly present a stiff challenge.
"The big thing we have to do is box her out and keep her off the glass," Lindner said.
Mastey scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds in the teams' first meeting, while Alex Crasper hit a pair of 3-pointers to help spark the Becker turnaround.
Worthington is making its sixth appearance at the state tournament, the first since 2004. Becker, meanwhile, is entering the state tournament for the first time.
Could Becker's inexperience at state be a hindrance? According to Lindner, it doesn't matter.
"I'm sure they'll be ready," he said. "The biggest thing is you've got to prepare your team no matter what."
And if the Trojans handle everything the Bulldogs throw their way, the odds of an extended stay in Minneapolis will certainly go up.
"We're going up there to get as much done as we can, hopefully find ourselves in the final," Lindner said.