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Boys basketball: Trojan Holiday Classic begins this week

WORTHINGTON -- The 2017 The Globe Trojan Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament gets under way at Worthington High School Friday, with championships scheduled for Saturday.

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Worthington Trojan OD Othow (3) makes a shot against Mankato West's Tom Yokeil and Michael Sathoff (50) in last year's The Globe Trojan Holiday Classic. (file photo)

WORTHINGTON -- The 2017 The Globe Trojan Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament gets under way at Worthington High School Friday, with championships scheduled for Saturday.

The action is with varsity and junior varsity teams featuring Alexandria, Mankato West, Sibley East and host Worthington.

On Friday, Alexandria and Sibley East JV teams play at 1 p.m., with Mankato West and Worthington contending at 2:30. Then at 6 p.m., Alexandria and Sibley East varsity teams play, with Mankato West and Worthington going at it at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, JV consolation and championship games get under way at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively. The varsity consolation and championship games start at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Here are some capsules on the competing varsity teams:

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WORTHINGTON Fact sheet --- After posting a 14-10 record in 2016-17, the Trojans entered the 2017-18 campaign with a senior-dominated team determined to improve.

--- The bulk of Worthington’s experience hovers around the inside game. There is quickness in the guards, but head coach Clint Meyer believes improved 3-point shooting will be a necessary component this winter.

--- The Trojans like to play pressure man-to-man defense. They can rotate nine or 10 players confidently into games.

--- Offensively, they like to push the ball up the floor quickly. They’ll take a shot if it’s there, but can back off and set things up in the halfcourt when the uncontested jumper isn’t available.

Key players --- Tyler Linder, a 6-3 senior post, is a rugged player who knows how to get position inside. He averaged around 13 points and 8 rebounds per game in a junior year that saw him win All-Big South honorable mention honors. Also a very good tight end and defensive end on the football team.

--- Stewart Merrigan, a 6-7 senior post, has nice moves around the basket. Not as physical as Linder, he nevertheless can score, rebound and alter shots defensively.

--- Logan Huisman, a 6-2 senior forward, can hit the jump shot but is being moved more inside this season. A good athlete, he’s the quarterback on the football team.

--- OD Othow, a 6-3 senior guard, is another experienced player who can hit the 3-pointer or drive inside for a score. A solid ball handler, he’ll draw some tough defensive assignments.

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--- Gavin Calmus, a 6-1 senior forward, is a talented scorer who can make things happen on his own. Aggressive with the ball, he can find a way to get to the free throw line against tough opposition.

Style points Meyer is a big believer in tough, physical defense creating opportunities. He was a starter for the Trojans as a freshman in high school and he learned the importance of defense from longtime WHS head coach Ron Vorwald.

Coach’s quote “We have some high expectations. We’re hoping to build off of our 14-10 record. They want to be a contender in the Big South this year.”

ALEXANDRIA Fact sheet --- Alexandria posted a 21-8 record in 2016-17 which included two victories in the Section 8AAA tournament.

--- The 2017-18 season didn’t start out so well. A year ago, the Cardinals defeated Moorhead in their season opener, 86-59. But in their 2017-18 season opener Moorhead came away with an 86-59 win. The Cards are currently 3-3.

--- Despite the slow start, head coach Forrest Witt is hoping for a solid season, though it may take a while for the team to start hitting on all cylinders. “We got a good core group of seniors and three underclassmen who are helping us at the varsity level,” he said.

--- A season ago, the Cardinals were more of a perimeter-oriented team. This year, they are a little more inside focused. They are a newcomer to the Trojan Holiday Classic.

Key players --- Justin Balcome, a 6-9 senior forward-center, was the team’s sixth-man during the 2016-17 campaign. Next year, he’ll be taking his talents to Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., but until then he provides Alexandria with a solid inside-outside threat. A good shooter, he can also rebound and block shots. He scored 12 points with 18 rebounds and four blocked shots in the season opener.

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--- Trey Hoepner, a 5-10 junior point guard, is the team’s floor leader. A strong passer and defender, he is the team’s only returning starter. He averaged about six points per game as a sophomore, and will be expected to raise that average this winter.

--- Jared Schneider, a 6-2 senior guard-forward, is poised to move into more of a scoring role this season.

--- Michael Empting, a 6-2 senior guard, is a steady player and a good outside shooter.

Style points After losing five seniors, including two leading scorers and their top assist man, the Cardinals are stressing intelligence and focus. “We’re looking to just play smart and play disciplined basketball. That’s kind of going to be our M.O. this year,” said Witt.

Coach’s quote “It’ll be fun (playing in the Classic). Josh Dale (Worthington High School’s athletic director) was a coach and taught here in Alexandria for several years, and we kind of stayed in touch, and he invited us to the tournament.”

MANKATO WEST Fact sheet --- The Mankato West Scarlets produced a 13-14 record over the 2016-17 campaign which included a first-round 67-57 loss to Faribault in the Section 2AAA tournament.

--- The Scarlets defeated Worthington 52-49 last year to capture the Trojan Holiday Classic.

--- Jeremy Drexler, who coached freshman boys basketball at New Ulm Cathedral last year, is the new head varsity coach for Mankato West in 2017-18.

--- There are eight seniors on the team, including three who started last season.

Key players --- Michael Sathoff, a 6-10 senior center, averaged about 11 points per game last season and has a good enough shooting touch that he can score away from the basket. He’s a presence defensively that opposing teams must be concerned about.

--- Dawson Frericks, a 6-3 senior forward, is described by Drexler as a “hustle guy.” He’s also a good rebounder with a nice mid-range shot. Averaged about 7 points per game last season.

--- Dondre Spann, a 6-3 senior forward, also averaged about 7 points per game the previous season. He’s the team’s most athletic player. Muscular, he played split end and defensive end on the football team.

--- Griffin Corbett, a 6-3 senior guard, is the new starting point guard. He can shoot the 3-pointer and also get to the rim. Also a good defender.

Style points With the Scarlets’ good size, they’re hoping to be a good rebounding team this year. But Drexler says the campaign will hinge on the team being able to hit its outside shots and keep opponents “out of the paint.”

Coach’s quote “Defense is very important, and just being smart ball players that play hard offensively. And we’ll try to take advantage of mismatches when we can.”

SIBLEY EAST Fact sheet --- Sibley East enjoyed a strong season in 2016-17, going 19-6. It was a tall team that showed solid inside strength. “We were definitely a half-court team,” said head coach Daniel Meier.

--- In two Trojan Holiday Classic games last year, the Wolverines lost to Mankato West 69-39 and defeated Hutchinson 70-44.

--- Coming into this season, Sibley East still had to search for answers after having to replace three starters -- who together averaged 35 to 40 points per game -- from last year’s team.

--- The Wolverines opened this season with a 72-65 win over Nicollet.

Key players --- Gavin Bates, a 6-2 senior guard, is a player who will need to be a leader on the floor. Meier describes him as “one of the best players in the area.” A two-time all-conference selection, Bates is a fine scorer who broke the school single-game scoring record last season with 48.

--- Austin Weckwerth, a 6-1 senior guard, is the team’s other returning starter. Coming into the 2017-18 campaign, Weckwerth was already closing in on 1,000 points for his career. A competitive player. Probably the team’s best outside shooter.

--- Alex Sell, a 6-4 senior center. Sell can hit the 15-footer, and he’s a good free throw shooter.

Style points The Wolverines came into 2017-18 “searching for a lot of answers,” in Meier’s words. But he said there was a lot of healthy competition in the early-going, and the team could be deep in that nine or 10 players could get serious playing time.

Coach’s quote “We’re pretty inexperienced. We’re looking for a lot of people who will fill in those inside spots.”

Related Topics: BOYS 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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