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Prep girls basketball: Worthington presses to win

WORTHINGTON -- After losing their season opener 44-30 at Waseca, head coach Eric Lindner could have called himself a prophet: The Worthington Trojans girls basketball team might indeed find offense hard to come by, at least in the early-going of ...

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DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE Worthington Trojans junior Ahmitara Alwal (14) drives toward the basket against Fairmont defender Brenna Cutler Tuesday night at the WHS gym. The Trojans defeated the Cardinals to even their early-season record at 1-1.

WORTHINGTON - After losing their season opener 44-30 at Waseca, head coach Eric Lindner could have called himself a prophet: The Worthington Trojans girls basketball team might indeed find offense hard to come by, at least in the early-going of the 2015-16 season.
But after Tuesday’s 72-57 victory over visiting Fairmont, suddenly the call for patience doesn’t seem quite so desperate.
Truth be told, Tuesday’s offensive output can be put on the defense. An aggressive, pressing WHS defense - that old Lindner stand-by - harassed Fairmont into 51 turnovers in the Cardinals’ season-opening game. Many of the Cards’ miscues were turned into points, helping the Trojans more than double their score from their own season opener.
“I’m surprised at how many points we got. Last year we weren’t a high-scoring team, either,” said junior forward Emily Shaffer, who scored seven points and pulled down seven rebounds.
After graduating the bulk of their scoring from last year’s team, Lindner said he’d rely on height and balance this winter. His plan on Tuesday night was to use the Trojans’ height to force Fairmont to make lazy lob passes over them - then to send teammates over to make the steal. Worthington took advantage of 35 Fairmont turnovers in the first half alone, en route to a 38-22 lead at intermission.
After the game, Lindner said his team still needs much improvement. The Trojans’ own passing was inconsistent. They missed a lot of layups. And they turned the ball over 35 times, themselves.
But they made a few good passes, too. And Ahmitara Alwal, one the team’s primary ball handlers, played, according to the coach, a fine “slashing” game and controlled the tempo well.
Alwal finished with 14 points after scoring 10 in the first half. Emma Thuringer, Worthington’s other ball-handling guard, led all scorers with 16 points. Emma Gerber added 10.
Abby Mulder, who scored six points, pulled down seven rebounds. And Allie Bruns, who also scored six points, had six steals.
Taylor Crissinger and Courtney Moslowski each scored 10 points to pace Fairmont.
For Worthington, it was a total team effort - one that Lindner expects to see more of. Without a superstar on the team, the Trojans will need to get things done by committee this winter.
“I’d rather have a team like that. Because you never know who will step up,” Lindner said.
Both teams used pressure defense liberally Tuesday night. Worthington got off to the better start, running its lead to 20-13 at the 10:16 mark on a three-point play by Thuringer culminating a fast-break layup. Increasingly frustrated by the WHS pressure, Fairmont continued to make wild passes that the Trojans were in position to steal.
Up 16 points at halftime, Thuringer made a steal and drove for a layup on Fairmont’s first possession of the second half.
After that, the game got weird. Fairmont scored 12 of the game’s next 14 points to pull within 42-34. Worthington then scored the next six points for a 48-34 lead. An Anneke Weg layup with 7:17 remaining gave WHS its biggest lead of the game, 59-38, and seconds later Maddi Woll converted a three-point shot (Worthington’s only three-pointer of the game) for 62-38. Shortly afterward, a 12-foot bank shot by Shaffer gave the hosts a 64-38 advantage with a little more than six minutes remaining.
Still fighting, the Cardinals went on a 16-2 run to cut the deficit to 66-54. But there was just too much to make up at that point.
Shaffer was all smiles after the game. “We did really good on our pressing,” she said. “We made them turn the ball over a ton.”
Lindner was very vocal on the sidelines during the game. “When you have high expectations for kids and they don’t get them the first game, maybe that was a difference - that I had to get off the bench and be more vocal … That constant reminder. I think that helps,” he said later.
Shaffer said that to continue making progress, she and the Trojans will “have to rely on getting open on the inside - instead of jacking up a lot of threes and long shots.”
Added Lindner: “If our kids pass the ball in the press, there’s no way they can’t make it. But as you could see, they got a little tired in the second half.”
Fairmont 22 57
Worthington 38 72
FAIRMONT (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Harder 1-2-1-8, Lunn 1-2-2-9, Hunwardsen 0-1-2-4, Crissinger 0-4-2-10, Dewitt 0-1-0-2, B.Cutler 1-1-0-5, C.Cutler 0-0-1-1, Bass 0-0-0-0, Moslowski 0-3-4-10, Lardy 0-2-1-5, Krusemark 0-1-1-3. Totals 3-17-14-57.
WORTHINGTON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) - Alwal 0-5-4-14, Thuringer 0-6-4-16, Bruns 0-1-4-6, Gerber 0-4-2-10, Woll 1-1-0-5, Heidebrink 0-1-0-2, Weg 0-3-0-6, Mulder 0-2-2-6, Shaffer 0-3-1-7. Totals 1-26-17-72.

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Fairmont’s Haley Harder (1) looks for an outlet while guarded Tuesday night at the Worthington High School gym by Trojan senior Allie Bruns (22). DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE

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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