WORTHINGTON - Senior forward Tyler Linder needed 27 points on Thursday night to record 1,000 points for his Worthington high school career.
The Trojans, eager to prove themselves against the 14-4 Southwest Christian Eagles, needed a win.
On a cold, snowy night in Worthington, both things happened. The Trojans took down Southwest Christian 78-70 in possibly the biggest win of the year - and Linder scored 30 points on 13 of 23 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, two steals and a block.
Being that the Trojans had three-straight road games coming up, Linder wanted to get it done Thursday, in front of his friends and family in Worthington.
With four minutes left in the game, Linder got the ball on the post, turned and nailed a hook shot, becoming the ninth player in Trojan Boys Basketball history to record 1,000 points. The hotly-contested game came to a stop, as Linder celebrated with his friends, family and teammates, all while receiving a hometown standing ovation and props from Southwest Christian coaches and players.
“The moment was really great because my teammates helped me get to that point,” Linder said. “I gotta give it to them because without them I wouldn’t have been able to get 30 points tonight. They told me throughout the week, ‘we’re going to get you 1,000 at home.’”
The Trojans did indeed put a focus on Linder, often designing their plays to feed him the ball under the basket. It turned out to be effective, as even with double teams, Southwest Christian couldn’t stop Linder from banking in layup after layup.
“I wish we could feed him like that every game, because he’s capable of doing that,” said Trojans coach Clint Meyer. “I’m proud of Tyler. One-thousand points is a great accomplishment and we knew we wanted to get it done on our home floor, so I’m glad we got it done.”
The game marked the first time in Linder’s career he has defeated Southwest Christian.
Worthington jumped out to a 22-6 lead early, completely stifling the Eagles attack and scoring inside at will.
“We got out and guarded. It’s a good thing we were able to extend that lead early because they’re not going to quit, they’re going to keep coming at you,” Meyer said.
Southwest Christian rallied back, capitalizing off of Worthington turnovers with an onslaught of layups, bringing the score to within eight early in the second half.
The problem for the Eagles was they couldn’t stop Worthington inside, and Linder wasn’t the only big man with a big game. Stewart Merrigan chipped in 12 points, 13 rebounds and three highlight-reel blocks.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Merrigan received a fast break pass and found himself wide open, with only the rim in front of him. He proceeded to unleash a one-handed dunk, bringing the Trojan’s bench and the home crowd to its feet.
As the game got down to its final minute, the two teams traded buckets for free throws until it was all over. The Trojans got the ball to Karasharo Ojulu in anticipation of intentional fouls, and he hit 11 of his 14 attempts, finishing the night with 13 points.
For Southwest Christian, Avery Pater led the way with 17 points. The Eagles shot well from two (16-26) but struggled from three (8-28), typically a strength for the team.