Trojans give Becker scare
MINNEAPOLIS -- Some of Becker coach Justin Hegna's worst fears came true Wednesday morning in his girls basketball team's game against Worthington. Then the game nearly became a nightmare for the top-ranked Bulldogs. Becker nearly let a 14-point ...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Some of Becker coach Justin Hegna's worst fears came true Wednesday morning in his girls basketball team's game against Worthington.
Then the game nearly became a nightmare for the top-ranked Bulldogs.
Becker nearly let a 14-point second half lead slip away and had to hold on for dear life as it thwarted the eighth-seeded Trojans, 67-64, in the Class AAA state quarterfinals.
Becker (29-1) advances to play Benilde-St. Margaret's in the state semifinal round at noon today. Worthington ends its season at 18-8.
The Trojans had their chance late to win the game, trailing 63-62 with just 43 seconds left.
After Becker's Rachel Gilbert missed the front end of a one-and-one, Alex Wetering grabbed the rebound and fed to Gabby Boever, who drove the length of the floor before a running layup missed the target. Becker added four free throws in the final 29 seconds, and Worthington was unable to complete its comeback.
The biggest concern as the game went on for the Bulldogs was the ability of the Trojans' guards to attack Becker's interior defense with the dribble.
"We wanted to stay in front at all times, split screens ... but they kept us off-balance all game long," Hegna said.
Becker seemed to gain full control of the game early in the second half. After Worthington forged a 37-34 edge after a basket from Ashley Aggen, the Bulldogs scored the next 17 points to secure a 51-37 cushion with 9:19 left in the game. In that span, the Trojans missed seven shots from the field -- including five 3-pointers -- and had three turnovers.
"The biggest thing ... was we didn't execute," WHS head coach Eric Lindner said. "We didn't keep doing what we needed to be doing."
From there, the Trojans slowly pulled back into the game. And as the game got closer, the Bulldogs started to feel the pressure.
"I think maybe there times in the game where they weren't thinking about what was going on, but a play ahead," said Wetering (10 points, six rebounds).
It didn't hurt matters that any big shot Worthington needed in the final nine minutes seemed destined to find the bottom of the net.
"Worthington managed to convert on all of their opportunities," Hegna said. "Once they got it down to 11, they got it down to six. We turned the ball over a little bit, and the big 3 brought it within two. They took advantage of us making mistakes."
Gabby Boever and Ashley Aggen led the charge in the second half, combining for 22 of the Trojans' 38 points on the second half. Boever hit for 12 of her 21 points in the second half, while Aggen had 10 -- including two of Worthington's three 3-point baskets -- after a scoreless first half. The Trojans, however, were just 3-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Becker's Brianna Mastey was dominant in the first half, scoring 15 of her game-high 27 points while pulling down 12 rebounds. However, as the second half started, she had a problem holding onto the ball, even turning it over once by dribbling the ball off her foot while alone in the backcourt. Mastey had four turnovers in the second half alone.
"Brianna got a little tired today," Hegna said. "A couple times when Worthington made the run, we got the ball to Brianna, but the ball slipped out of her hands."
Mastey was limited on the boards as well, only grabbing three rebounds in the second half as the Trojans implemented their halftime adjustment nicely.
"During halftime, coach was talking about getting her off the boards because we knew she had half of their points in the first half," Wetering said. "We focused on everybody having to box out; everybody has to find a girl."
The Trojans got off to a strong start in the first half, opening the game on a 15-6 run. Most of that damage was done at the free-throw line, where Worthington made its first eight attempts.
From there, Becker slowly gained the momentum, scoring 14 of the next 19 points to take its first lead of the game, 20-19, with 5:29 left before the break. Worthington managed to stay within striking distance for a while, never falling behind by more than six points, before grabbing a 34-32 lead early in the second half on a basket by Alyssa Smith.
"We came out just like we started the game at our place. Then we got complacent," Lindner said. "We just dug too big a hole."
As for Hegna, he hopes his team -- which had won 25 games by double digits entering Wednesday's quarterfinal -- can use the narrow victory as a guide through the rest of the tournament.
"If you're going to try to find something you can use for a next game ... I guess winning by two or three and going down to the last second can maybe help us the next game more than we know," he said.