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Basketball: Trojans boys basketball team hopes to finish strong

WORTHINGTON -- Jan. 3 was a low point to the Worthington High School boys basketball season. The host Trojans played an outstanding first half against an outstanding opponent, Jackson County Central, then appeared to self-destruct in the second h...

WORTHINGTON -- Jan. 3 was a low point to the Worthington High School boys basketball season. The host Trojans played an outstanding first half against an outstanding opponent, Jackson County Central, then appeared to self-destruct in the second half en route to a 79-62 loss.

In the locker room after the game, WHS head coach Clint Meyer was understandably disappointed. In the heat of the moment, he said he could not predict how his team would respond to such a meltdown.

They responded, in fact, by winning their next four games against Redwood Valley, Murray County Central, Windom Area and New Ulm. The game against Redwood Valley was key. It occurred just three days after the JCC loss, and in it, the Trojans earned an 81-79 double-overtime victory against one of the better teams in the Big South Conference.

After the JCC loss, Meyer said, the team talked about forgetting the second half and about focusing rather on the good things it did in the first half.

“They responded really well,” Meyer said Thursday afternoon.

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Whew!

“They’re high school kids,” the coach said. “You don’t always know if the wheels are coming off or they’re coming back on.”

During the 2015-16 basketball season, Meyer’s Trojans often came out on the wrong end of tight ball games. At this point in the 2016-17 campaign, however, the team owns a 9-6 record with four Big South Conference games remaining.

Tonight the Trojans, 4-4 in the Big South Conference, begin the final stretch of the conference season with a home game against Pipestone Area. Then they’re at Luverne on Jan. 31, at Marshall on Feb. 3 and at JCC on Feb. 7.

One of the Trojans’ goals this year is to finish in the top half of the conference. Currently, Marshall has a 7-0 Big South record. Redwood Valley and Pipestone Area are both 5-3. JCC is 4-3. Worthington is 4-4, Luverne 1-6 and Windom Area 0-7.

“I’m pretty happy with where we’re at. We’re at the point right now where anything is possible. So it’s a good spot to be in,” Meyer said.

Three of the remaining four conference opponents have winning records. The regular season concludes with a few non-conference affairs and a Big South crossover game on Feb. 24. The section tournament begins during the first week of March.

Worthington’s defense has been solid. The team is allowing only about 55 points per game. The offense averages about 60 points, but Meyer admits it’s been a little spotty at times.

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“We still gotta be more consistent,” he said Thursday.

Various Trojans have “stepped up” at various times. Junior guard OD Othow is finding his offensive rhythm. Junior forward Tyler Linder has been a consistent performer near the basket.

Meyer would like to get his 6-7 junior center, Stewart Merrigan, the ball more often. His offensive production has been inconsistent, at times, because of a lack of touches. Also, Meyer said Merrigan gets caught guarding smaller players sometimes, though he does a good job with opponents more his size.

Worthington’s biggest offensive threat, senior guard-forward Zach Boever, has been something of an enigma. Capable of taking over a game on the offensive end, he has at times gone full halves without scoring very much. At any moment, however, he can and does score in bunches.

Predicting just when that might happen is always anyone’s guess.

“I wish I could flip a switch,” Meyer said. “How he goes offensively, we go as a team. When he struggles, we struggle.”

For the remainder of the season, Meyer says he wants to simply concentrate upon the team’s continual improvement.

The team is much deeper now, and very much due to the fact that Meyer played many players early in the season, experimenting with several lineups to find the right combination. The extra court time has benefitted the role players.

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The defense is also noticeably improved since the start. The intensity level has improved, Meyer said, and the players are getting out and pressuring their rivals. There is good rotation on the weak side. And the Trojans rebound well.

“After that Jackson game, we thought we could go on a winning streak. And we did,” Meyer said.

Tonight’s game will be the first for WHS in a week, and it comes after a 60-51 loss on the road to Redwood Valley. It’s a good time to start another winning streak.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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