WORTHINGTON -- Willmar defeated Worthington 71-58 Thursday night in a section 3AAA boys basketball game, but it wasn’t the worst loss of the week for the Trojans.
Star junior forward Brock Bruns underwent an emergency appendectomy early Monday morning and is likely lost for the rest of the season. While Bruns watched from the end of the bench in street clothes on Thursday, his absence was noticeable on the court as the lackluster Trojans fell victim to the visiting Cardinals.
“Brock’s a really good player,” said Trojan junior guard Terbuto Ochothow, who led all scorers with 25 points but shot just 8-for-32 from the field. “He was really starting to play his game and get comfortable with it.”
Bruns had scored 20 points in back-to-back games and was averaging about 12 ppg. The Trojans were unable to compensate for the missing offense. And their defense was largely missing in action in what was WHS’s last home game of the regular season.
“Brock has been a big part of our team the whole year and that’s a tough spot to fill,” said Worthington senior forward Will Brandner, who scored 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting. “That’s tough, really tough for our team.”
Senior guard Jack Jeffords led a balanced attack with 19 points as Willmar improved to 6-16 overall. With four players in double figures, the Cardinals broke a four-game losing streak and won for just the second time in their last 12 games.
“We were really aggressive in taking the ball to the rim,” said Willmar coach Matt Williams. “We’re a little more physical maybe than Worthington and that helped us a lot.”
Jacob Rosendahl scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half and fellow junior Chase Dirksen added 10 markers after halftime as the Cardinals led virtually wire to wire.
“We’ve been in so many close games,” said Williams. “And we’re really young. We graduated all eight guys who played last year. So it’s like starting over for us. But we’re learning how to win, learning how to compete. And it was fun to see us put a full game together tonight.”
The Cardinals led by eight at halftime and by 10 four minutes into the second half. Then Brandner took a slick no-look bounce pass from Ochothow to score a layup.
Brandner followed with a short turnaround. Teammate Daniel Pavelko connected from the baseline and then Brandner scored again after an Ochothow assist as the Trojans cut the deficit to 44-42.
But Samuel Fraser, who finished with 11 points and seven boards, drove to the rack for a hoop as Willmar stopped the WHS run. Rosendahl then drained a deuce and a 3-pointer as the Cardinals went back up by nine.
The Trojans never threatened again.
“We just didn’t seem to have a lot of energy. We were kind of flat most of the game,” said Worthington coach Clint Meyer, whose team fell to 11-12 and 1-6 in the section. “We had one good stretch where we came to life there in the second half but offensively we just didn’t seem to have a lot of flow and we didn’t have much energy on defense.
“With Brock being out we knew we were going to struggle a little bit … It’s a tough blow for us.”
Ochothow got off to a quick start, hitting his first three shots from the field and scoring 13 of Worthington’s first 15 points.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Williams said. “He made some crazy shots and some really good moves in the first five minutes and I think our guys were a little shell-shocked. We tried to deny him everywhere and face-guard him and I think that wore him down a little.”
Worthington led briefly in the first half, but never by more than a basket. The Trojans faded in the second half and now face more meaningful games without a healthy roster.
“We need guys to rally as a group and hopefully we can score by committee here in the games coming up,” said Meyer, whose team plays in Redwood Falls against Redwood Valley High on Friday.
Willmar 34 71
Worthington 26 58
WILLMAR (3PG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Morrell 0-1-4-6, Rosendahl 2-3-1-13, Jeffords 3-4-2-19, May 0-3-0-6, Dirksen 1-4-1-12, Fraser 1-4-0-11, Sellmann 0-2-0-4. Totals: 7-21-8-71.
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Ochothow 3-5-6-25, Bickett 0-1-2-4, Wiel 0-1-0-2, Brandner 0-8-0-16, Boever 0-1-0-2, Pavelko 0-1-1-3, Beyene 2-0-0-6. Totals: 5-17-9-58