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PREP BOY'S BASKETBALL: Trojans can't hold on

MANKATO -- It was a typical Worthington-Marshall ballgame Thursday night, and in the end, the Tigers prevailed in a classic high school matchup. The top-seeded Marshall Tigers (21-8) scored 11 of the game's final 14 points -- including four from ...

WHS' Michael Singsaath
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe With 13 seconds remaining on the clock, Trojan senior Michael Singsaath (25) sinks both of his free throws to tie the game during Thursday night's Section 2AAA playoff game in Mankato.

MANKATO -- It was a typical Worthington-Marshall ballgame Thursday night, and in the end, the Tigers prevailed in a classic high school matchup.

The top-seeded Marshall Tigers (21-8) scored 11 of the game's final 14 points -- including four from Ben Sanders in the last seven seconds -- to claim a thrilling 73-69 victory over the second-seeded Worthington Trojans (21-5) in the Section 2AAA boys' basketball championship clash at Minnesota State University-Mankato's Taylor Center.

Marshall advances to next week's Class AAA state tournament, while Worthington sees an outstanding season come to an end.

"This one hurts, as they don't get much tougher than this," Worthington head coach Ron Vorwald said after the game. "I don't think that I have ever had a group of players play harder than these guys did, and I am very proud of them for their effort and their performance -- they are a class act.

They were a flat-out joy to coach, and I am going to miss going to practice and watching them play basketball."

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The Trojans led throughout the entire second half -- by as many as nine points twice (51-42 and 54-45) -- until Marshall's Caleb Johnson (15 points) nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Tigers up 68-67 with 1:10 on the clock.

Johnson increased the margin to two (69-67) when he sank one of two free throws with 20.4 seconds left, but Worthington's Michael Singsaath (16 points, five assists and four rebounds) calmly netted a pair of foul shots to make it 69-69 with 13 seconds remaining.

Sanders (game-high 20 points) answered with a driving layup down the right side of the lane, putting Marshall up 71-69 with seven seconds to play. The Trojans called a timeout with 4.8 seconds showing.

Worthington, though, turned the ball over for the 19th time with 3.1 seconds to play. Sanders was fouled a second later and dropped in a pair of free throws, sealing a 73-69 victory for Marshall -- which advances to the state tournament for the first time since 2001.

"That was a great game -- both teams played very well and deserve a ton of credit," Marshall head coach Tom Critchley said. "We kept it close in the second half and made big plays at the end. Our depth and aggressive defensive pressure were big factors for us."

WHS leads by six points five times in the first half

Jalen Voss (team-high 19 points, 15 rebounds) scored 10 of the Trojans' first 14 points to stake Worthington to early leads of 8-4, 12-6 and 14-9.

Voss scored on a variety of shots and moves inside, finishing with 15 points in the first half.

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Voss, though, missed a large portion of the first half with foul trouble -- something that Worthington dealt with all game long. Voss picked up his second foul at the 11:09 mark and his third foul with 2:42 to play.

Worthington's Morgan Traylor and Jon Reller both came in off of the bench and contributed a first-half basket. Traylor scored on a Trojan press-breaker (Dan Wetering assist) to make it 16-10, while Reller later scored on a nice move from the left block to put Worthington up 38-32 with 40 seconds left.

Marshall rallied to take leads of 20-17 and 24-19 between those two hoops, as Lee Christianson (13 points) scored on back-to-back Tiger possessions. Sanders drilled a 3-pointer and scored on a drive, while Johnson converted a 3-point play before Austin Saugstad capped a 14-3 run with a coast-to-coast, driving bucket off of a steal that put the Tigers up by five with 6:59 to go.

Mitch Weg (18 points, eight rebounds) countered with an offensive-rebound basket for the Trojans, who then tied the score (at 24 with 5:55 left) on a 3-point play in transition by Voss (Lucas Henning assist).

Henning (six points, five assists and four rebounds) buried a deep 3-pointer from out top, as Worthington regained a 27-26 lead at the 5:12 mark. Wetering (three points, four assists) knocked down a right-wing 3-pointer to give the Trojans a 31-28 advantage with 2:21 showing.

Wetering then passed to Singsaath for a 3-point swisher from the top of the key to make it 34-30 with 1:45 left, and it was 36-30 after a pair of free throws by Singsaath 31 seconds later.

Reller scored on a great low-post move to make it 38-32, and Singsaath connected again from behind the arc -- giving the Trojans a 41-35 lead with nine seconds remaining.

Two free throws by Christianson with no time remaining created a 41-37 halftime score.

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Trojans increase margin to nine, Tigers rally

Singsaath nailed another 3-pointer and drew a charge on the defensive end early in the second half, as Worthington was up 44-39 just more than two minutes in. Singsaath drew a second charge a bit later, and the Trojans then scored seven straight points -- all by Weg -- to mount a 51-42 lead with 11:38 to go.

Weg meshed a trio of free throws and scored on a post-up move from each block in that span. as the Trojans got five consecutive defensive stops to widen the gap.

Soon after, though, both Weg and Voss had four personal fouls -- and both sat out from the 10:41 mark until there were 8:42 remaining. Traylor and Wetering each had three fouls, and the Trojans later played a 1-2-2 or a 3-2 zone defense to avoid any further potential fouls.

Worthington maintained a nine-point cushion (54-45 at the 10:10 mark) behind a driving basket by Traylor and a free throw by Singsaath.

Marshall, though, slowly began to chip away. A fast-break basket and two free throws by Mason Schnaible (10 points) trimmed the deficit to five (54-49) with 8:42 remaining.

Baskets by Collin Hoover (nine points) and Christianson made it 56-53 at the 7:30 mark, while Henning passed to Singsaath for a basket along the baseline 14 seconds later to put the Trojans up 58-53.

Two more free throws by Schnaible and an offensive-rebound basket by Hoover brought the Tigers within one (58-57) with 6:17 to go. Voss responded with a 12-foot, pull-up jumper in the lane 10 seconds later.

But Sanders tied it at 60 with a 3-pointer from out top at the 4:59 mark.

Worthington went back up by three (63-60) behind two free throws by Henning and one from Jon Vorwald, but Sanders scored on a baseline drive to make it 63-62 at the three-minute mark.

A huge 3-point play by Weg (Voss assist) put Worthington up 66-62 with 2:40 showing, but Sanders again had an answer -- firing in a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it 66-65 with 2:06 remaining.

Henning hit one of two free throws to give the Trojans a 67-65 lead with 1:56 on the clock. Johnson's line-drive 3-pointer from the left corner 46 seconds later gave Marshall its first lead of the second half (68-67) and set up the final minute of action -- including the final four points by Sanders in the last seven seconds.

"We got into some foul trouble and turned the ball over too many times, but we played well and were in position to get a win," Ron Vorwald said. "Give credit to Marshall, as their depth and defensive pressure gave us some problems and contributed to the outcome. We had a few too many empty possessions down the stretch, and they made big plays."

Marshall's relentless full-court pressure in the second half -- along with several other trapping tactics applied throughout the game -- slowed Worthington down offensively and helped the Tigers stay close.

"That's our style, as we are always looking to pressure the ball and create turnovers," Critchley said. "We also strive to attack the basket on offense, and our aggressive nature eventually helped us go on a run at the end and come out on top."

Voss, Singsaath and O.J. Ojullu are Worthington's three seniors.

"We had great senior leadership and outstanding team chemistry," Ron Vorwald said. "Our guys laid it all on the line and left a lot of skin on the court tonight. We had a great season with a lot of fun memories, as this is a close-knit group that worked hard and was very successful."

Worthington 41 28 -- 69

Marshall 37 36 -- 73

Worthington (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Vorwald 0-0-1-1, Henning 1-0-3-6, Singsaath 3-1-5-16, Wetering 1-0-0-3, Traylor 0-2-0-4, Weg 0-6-6-18, Voss 0-8-3-19, Reller 0-1-0-2. Totals: 5-18-18-69.

Marshall (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Hoover 0-4-1-9, Sanders 4-3-2-20, Johnson 2-3-3-15, Bofferding 0-1-0-2, Schnaible 0-3-4-10, Saugstad 0-1-0-2, Christianson 0-3-7-13, DeBoer 0-1-0-2. Totals: 6-19-17-73.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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