BOYS' BASKETBALL: Trojans rally past Cougars

WORTHINGTON -- The fourth time was the charm. For the fourth consecutive season, the Worthington boys' basketball team faced Mankato East in the opening round of the Section 2AAA tournament. East won the previous three meetings, but Wednesday nig...

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Worthington's Mike Vorwald (15) shoots a 3-pointer while Mankato East's Jordan Benesh defends and Trojans coach Ron Vorwald looks on Wednesday night during a Section 2AAA playoff game in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- The fourth time was the charm.

For the fourth consecutive season, the Worthington boys' basketball team faced Mankato East in the opening round of the Section 2AAA tournament.

East won the previous three meetings, but Wednesday night was a different story.

With the Trojans trailing at halftime, junior Travis Meinders provided an offensive spark, leading Worthington to a 64-54 victory.

"We knew it was going to be tough coming into (Wednesday)," Meinders said. "(Worthington coach) Ron (Vorwald) prepared us very well during practice. We expected what we saw (Wednesday)."


Meinders, who finished with a game-high 23 points, hit critical shots coming out of halftime.

"The first half really didn't go too well for us," Meinders said. "The second half we really stepped it up."

East rallied in the first half and had a 31-29 lead at the break.

Meinders quickly changed that.

The 6-foot guard hit a trey out of the break from the right corner to give the Trojans a 32-31 lead.

"In the first half I was kind of cold and I was off," Meinders said. "I think I missed at least three 3-pointers. That really motivated me to step it up in the second half, and that's what I did."

Aduo Omot and Mike Vorwald each hit a shot, and with the score tied at 36-all, Meinders hit another 3, this time from the right wing.

With the score tied at 41-all less than two minutes later, Meinders delivered again.


This time, he hit a trey from the left corner, giving Worthington a 44-41 advantage -- a lead it would never relinquish.

Omot hit a free throw, and from there, Vorwald took over.

The senior point guard connected on a layup and followed with a jumper, keeping the lead at six points, 51-45.

Not only was he scoring, but he was also finding open teammates.

Following a pair of baskets, Vorwald found an open Jalen Voss for one of his 10 assists.

"We have better shooters on our team like Travis and King knocking down shots and Jalen and Aduo finishing down low, and Buzzy always doing the little things," Mike Vorwald said. "We're a team of role players. We have so many good players, you just have to get other kids the ball and they'll do stuff for you."

Meinders connected on another layup, and Matt King scored basket on an assist from Omot as the Trojans had a 57-48 lead.

Down the stretch, Worthington made its free throws, sealing the 64-54 victory.


"That's the main thing; we get to have practice tomorrow," Ron Vorwald said. "I was really happy with the way we defended in the second half. I was not happy with our effort defensively in the first half."

While Meinders and Vorwald carried the Trojans in the second half, King (team-high eight rebound) scored six of the first eight points in the game -- giving Worthington an 8-2 lead.

That lead would build to as much as 18-12 before East made its run.

Jordan Benesh and Alex Welter each hit a trey to spark a 9-0 run to give the Cougars, who finished 6 of 23 from 3-point land, a 21-18 advantage.

"We just didn't guard," Ron Vorwald said. "I thought we kind of relaxed a little bit and we were thinking more offense than we were defense. That's not our strength. Our strength is on the defensive end of the floor and what we do there transfers over to the offense."

Meinders hit a trey late in the first half to tie the game at 25-all, and with the game tied at 27 the Cougars went on a 6-2 run and had a 31-29 lead at the break.

"I think it was just nerves," Mike Vorwald said. "We haven't beat East in a playoff game; we haven't made it out of the first round since I've been playing. We just got out there and it was nerves. When I got into half I was like, 'Play slower.' I was trying to shoot the ball way too fast and never got into rhythm."

With the victory, the Trojans will advance to face Marshall Friday night at Gustavus Adolphus in Saint Peter.


Worthington split the season series with the Tigers, who defeated Saint Peter 74-63 Wednesday night.

"I won't be nervous for that one," Mike Vorwald said. "We'll be ready for that one.

"We had two weeks off for this one, and just thought about it every day. We've been thinking about it and getting it into our head that we haven't beaten East."

And they hadn't in the section tournament, at least not until Wednesday night.

ME 31 23 -- 54

Worthington 29 35 -- 64

ME (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Onsomu 0-7-0-14, Welter 3-1-2-13, Benesh 2-0-0-6, King 0-6-2-14, Ziegler 0-1-0-2, Lemke 0-1-0-2, Dose 1-0-0-3. Totals 6-16-4-54.

WHS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Omot 0-4-1-9, King 2-2-2-12, Meinders 4-3-5-23, Voss 0-3-0-6, Vorwald 0-6-2-14. Totals 6-18-10-64.

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