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Flames of brief fire: Trojans start hot against Redwood Valley, but Cardinals prevail, 69-55

The Worthington Trojans boys basketball team started like a flame of fire Thursday against a strong Redwood Valley team. But the Cardinals recovered for a 69-55 win.

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Worthington Trojans Cooper McCoy (15) fires a jump shot for two points in a basketball game with visiting Redwood Valley Thursday night. Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- For half of the first half, it looked as if the Worthington Trojans boys basketball team might pull off its biggest win of the season Thursday night. The Trojans reeled off nine points for a 9-0 lead against Redwood Valley, which didn’t score a point until more than four minutes had elapsed. It was 13-2 at one point.

But the Cardinals chipped away and led 29-28 at halftime. They outscored the home team 40-27 in the second half for their ninth victory against just two losses, 69-55. Worthington fell to 1-7.

“We just weren’t shooting the ball well (early), and it began to affect us,” said Redwood Valley head coach Aaron Lilndahl.

Indeed. The Trojans’ start was energetic and disciplined. Freshman Jacari Swinea and sophomore Kaleb Knothe led the offense, together scoring all of Worthington’s first 13 points. The WHS defense had Redwood looking frazzled.

“We took care of the basketball, we attacked in transition. When we attack in transition, we’re a pretty good team,” said Trojans head mentor CJ Nelson. “Then we started turning the ball over, and things started going the other way.”

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The Cardinals deserve a lot of credit for their turnaround in fortunes. As Worthington began to get a little out of control on offense, the Cards began to find the basket and turned over the ball less and less. Growing in confidence, they moved better, passed better, and rebounded better.

With 4:19 remaining till intermission, Redwood’s Charles LaChapelle drilled a 3-point shot that cut Worthington’s lead to 22-17. And with 3:24 to go Swinea drew his third foul. The visitors continued to fight back and the Trojans lost their rhythm.

Carson Woodford, a 6-8 senior center, is the kind of player who can give the Trojans -- whose counterpart in the paint Thursday, senior Jake Brandner, is just 6-2 -- plenty of trouble. Brandner and his teammates worked together to frustrate Woodford as best they could, but he finished with 17 points and many key rebounds.

LaChapelle scored 17 points, Drew Lundeen had 15 and Carter Peterson 10.

Worthington needed another strong start in the second half like it had in the first, but with 11:30 remaining in the second half Redwood Valley worked itself to a 44-36 advantage. A driving layup off a WHS turnover made it 46-36 moments later, then it was LaChapelle again to increase his team’s lead to 48-36.

The Trojans took a time-out at 10:11 and needed to make a run. But it didn’t happen. Several minutes later the Trojans finally whittled the margin to under 10 points, 54-45, on a Knothe 3-point shot, but on defense they were never able to put the stop on Redwood’s offense.

“We got in a little zone press, which slowed ‘em down. Got into an easy press and shots started to fall,” said Lindahl.

Swinea, coming off a big offensive game in Worthington’s previous contest Tuesday against Iowa’s Western Christian, finished with 23 points. Knothe, who also experienced some foul trouble, had 16. Point guard Mikele Walu had 11 rebounds and five assists for the Trojans, who committed 20 turnovers in the game. Nelson praised the performances of Charlie Brands and Cooper McCoy, who played hard and well off the bench.

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“Jacari and Kaleb, who led us in scoring, were both on the bench for a while in the first half, and Jacari got his fourth early in the second half,” Nelson pointed out.

“They out-rebounded us for sure,” he continued. “They got a lot of guys in the paint, and we weren’t boxing out, and they were getting layups.”

Worthington will not be able to perform again at least through Tuesday, as the school district on Thursday announced it will close at least until Wednesday in the hopes of tamping down Covid-19 cases. So Nelson and the team will have at least till then to consider how they can better finish their good starts.

“We’ve got a young team,” Nelson said in the locker room after Thursday’s game. “We have some really good pieces, and we just gotta continue to work hard and grow. And we’ve got a few games coming up where we think we can win, and that’s going to boost our confidence.”

Redwood Valley 29 69

Worthington 28 55

REDWOOD VALLEY (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Lundeen 1-4-4-15, LaChapelle 2-5-1-17, Woodford 0-7-3-17, Lang 0-2-2-6, Bill 0-1-0-2, Halvorson 0-1-0-2, Peterson 0-5-0-10. Totals 3-25-10-69.

WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- J.Brandner 0-3-2-8, Lia 0-2-0-4, Walu 0-1-0-2, Knothe 2-5-0-16, Swinea 0-9-5-23, Brands 0-0-1-1. Totals 2-20-9-55.

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As the Worthington bench watches, Trojans Jake Brandner (1) sprints past Redwood Valley defender Jahger Bill (13) with just seconds left on the clock to make a layup for the last points in the first half. Tim Middagh / The Globe

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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