WORTHINGTON -- Payton Sauerbrei said the final seconds seemed like an eternity, and for the Worthington High girls basketball team it was worth the wait.
Sauerbrei’s bucket at the buzzer lifted the Trojans to a 58-56 victory over the Windom Area Eagles Tuesday night. The dramatic finish capped a furious WHS rally and lifted the Trojans to 2-1 overall this season.
“This is a big win for us, because Windom is a good opponent this year,” Sauerbrei said. “They really brought it tonight. We came together in the second half and really got our chemistry together.”
That chemistry involved Olivia Hayenga, a talented sophomore whose play in the final 10 minutes was the difference-maker. She scored 11 points -- all in the second half -- and sparked a 14-0 Worthington run that erased a double-digit deficit.
“I heard my dad (Craig) at one point yell to hustle harder,” Hayenga said with a grin. “That just pushes me, and I knew I didn’t do a very good job in the first half. So I just pushed myself as hard as I could.”
Windom Area led for most of the game, by as many as 12 points in the first half and by 10 with 10 to play. But then Hayenga went off, scoring seven straight points. When junior center Sophie Wietzema rebounded a Hayenga missed free throw and dribbled to the corner, she didn’t hesitate.
“They were all yelling ‘no, no, no’ but I decided to shoot (a 3-pointer) and then they all went wild,” said Wietzema, whose trey brought WHS within 45-44.
Wietzema, who finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, added two free throws later as the two teams battled on even terms down the stretch.
“It was amazing. I haven’t scored that many points or played that well in a long time,” Wietzema said.
Windom’s talented backcourt was outstanding. Senior Shelby Erickson scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half and junior Allison Letcher was a force down the stretch. Letcher’s clutch 3-pointer with 15 seconds left tied the game.
Worthington’s Sauerbrei drove to the hoop but came up short. The rebound was finally garnered by the athletic Hayenga, who struggled to gain control and finally tipped it back to the right-handed Sauerbrei in the lane. She tossed it up with her left.
“I threw up it there hoping it would go in,” Sauerbrei said. “It rolled around for what seemed like forever.”
When it dropped through, the Trojans had a victory.
“The kids fought and fought and fought,” said WHS coach Eric Lindner. “And then you knew things were going right when Sophie hit that 3 in the corner.
“I was happy with the kids. I saw intensity and hard work, and they didn’t give up.”
Windom dropped to 1-3.
“It’s a credit to Worthington for battling back,” said Windom coach Jacob Johnson. “Our guards did a great job of attacking the basket, but we didn’t get shots to fall for us down the stretch.”